Places Mark Our Memories, Lives


On our way to Grubsteakers, newly opened from being smashed by the EF4 tornado, Mr P said, “That was the farm where I delivered a propane tank. Everyone wanted theirs delivered first, but I couldn’t be first for all five people. I just left it. The owner wasn’t happy.”
I looked at the barns, thinking about how people who stay put can point to the places where their lives took place. I thought of the Aborigines, how the land itself was the language for the stories they told.

I wanted to leave home when I saw jets flying out of Albany airport. I got my wish but, now at 60, I miss being able to tell stories of that train I rode for my fifth-year birthday, the track now a bike path, or the wrong side of the wall in Thacher park, the cliff a few feet away, where I sat, numb, hours after I buried my mother.

I miss being able to point and say, “There is where it happened.”

I miss the land making up the language of my childhood stories, not broken apart by living here and there. I miss the people I grew up with, people I could talk to over pizza at Smitty’s and say “Remember when?” and they’d know exactly what I’m talking about.

But, I will remember my first meal at Grubsteakers — fried chicken better than homemade, eating with our neighbors — after it opened, after being wrecked.

I’m Katie Andraski, and this is my perspective.

This was first published on Northern Public Radio. If you’d like to listen to me read this, click here.

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  • Christine Guzman says:

    Katie: I just moved my Mother at 90 into a nursing home, one of her choice – further away but she has many connections with people from her past there she is enjoying re-connecting with. She is hoping my Dad will be able to be transferred from his nursing home to this one in the next few months. This week I was cutting their grass (a final time) during dusk hours, so I finished in the dark. I wrote this poem a while ago – it describes our over 120 yr. old farmhouse, perhaps 10 yrs. ago demolished. Over the past year and a half I have enjoyed connecting with caring for their property, before saying farewell.
    Favorite Places
    The favorite room in our house growing up?
    A question my sister was asked
    and answered “the dirty room”
    the name we had for an attic like room
    holding boxes of memories, an old Singer sewing machine, an old organ, old clothes,
    to scrounge around in from time to time
    so it would need organizing again and again.

    My Mother fretted about
    us children falling through holes in the barn floor,
    while just inside, two steps down to the right of the dirty room door
    was a hole with an old door loosely covering it,
    another hole at the side of the wall
    was where I hid my Dad’s pipe
    when he said if I hid it well enough, he’d quit,
    but gone forever, lost in the walls.

    As I cut the lawn of my parents newer home,
    the outline of the century old farmhouse
    shows in the dried grass.
    I am amazed at how small a house it was
    for containing a family with five children.
    The thought of renovating
    and expanding our little space
    was unheard of in those days,
    without the endless repetition of
    renovation shows inferring you must upgrade.
    An attitude of making do
    with what we had, surviving month to month,
    accidents and tragedies, family gatherings.
    The boards from that dirty room floor,
    now made into a gate leading to my backyard garden,
    my current favorite place.

    • katiewilda says:

      What a wonderful poem. It captures your love for your childhood home and the magic of a room where stuff gets stored. It can certainly be a magical place. My husband’s parents also tore down their very old house and built new back in the 60’s. Way cool that you saved those boards and made them a gate. Thank you for stopping by.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    I appreciate this Katie. The land where we live does bear our histories. And when things get destroyed, a piece of our heart goes w/ them. Our first little bungalow was raised when we moved, b/c the land value had exceeded the value of the house. But its worth to us was incalculable. Thank God for memories. And thank God for authors like you who are so adroit at capturing them!

    • katiewilda says:

      I just listened to Martin Marty who said that you could learn a lot about a person by where they came from. I thought that was insightful. I’m so sorry to hear about that bungalow that was knocked down. How painful for you. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments.