• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #22: Grandma and Grandpa Faulkner's House, Portsmouth

Updated: Jun 19, 2019


It's entirely possible that my brother's pants were made from my father's jacket.

Both of my parents grew up in Portsmouth. My father's parents moved around a bit, and most of my recollections of my dad's mom involve her living in an apartment above the barn at our house in Stratham. My mom's folks lived in her childhood home for decades, that modest white house with green trim at the corner of Leavitt and McClintock, just off Peverly Hill Road in the sprawling neighborhood known as the Portsmouth Plains. Along with her five siblings, it was the only home my mother knew until she married my dad. From that house she'd attend Portsmouth High School, and walk the two miles into town as a young woman to work at Eberle's stationery store (in heels, she would have you know).

I can remember the house clearly from my own childhood. My grandmother crocheting on the couch while Lawrence Welk played on the TV, little bowls of wrapped butterscotch or that heinous ribbon candy on the coffee table. Better treats awaited in the narrow kitchen, contraband M&Ms in a cut-glass bowl atop the fridge. We learned from a young age how to scale the counter to get to the candy; we being my brother Al and my Faulkner cousins Tomand Buddy. We also played in that yard that seemed so spacious then, with the crabapple trees supplying copious missiles and flanked by the flower garden my grandmother always loved so much. The basement was a source of mysterious dark terror, lined with glass bottles of cologne my grandfather called "fru-fru juice". He was a railroad man, my grandfather, and I always remember him in suspenders and a tie, even in his retirement.

The upstairs was a place of wonder for me, mainly because so little had changed since my mother and aunts and uncles had lived there that it encouraged me to think of my parents as children. To see the room my mother had slept in, the books she had read, even a doll she had played with, lent a kind of electric and confusing connection to the past. I think now about how back then, in the early 1980s, she was younger than I am now. Time is a relentless partner, and she never stops dancing no matter how tired our feet get.

I was still young when the place was sold, maybe in junior high. My grandfather had passed, and my grandmother relocated to a retirement home in Manchester. The house still serves as setting for endless family myths, from my father's proposing to my mother to the hijinks with the getaway car after their wedding to the day I stepped firmly into a newly-laid cement step wearing newly-bought shoes. I wonder, with the itinerant life Sarah and I have led while the boys have been young, if they'll ever know the same connection to family places. My folks' house in Stratham, maybe, or the camp at the lake. I sure hope so.

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