The garage was large, nearly half the size of their
house. Their two cars, which were different every visit,
had plenty of room to be comfortable. This was where
my grandparents always greeted us, making sure we felt
welcomed from the moment we arrived. The entire back
wall had been made into a tune-up station, no doubt
due to my grandfather’s obsession with NASCAR. The
wall was covered with tools: hammers; wrenches of
various kinds, each hung neatly in place; cans of oil and
windshield wiper fluid filled the shelves; scraps of parts
only my grandfather could know laid in various piles on
the counter. This is no place for you kids was always his
response if he saw us wandering around behind the cars
while the adults were talking. He would threaten to hang
us by our pants from a large metal hook hanging from
the ceiling with a grin, then hurry us off outside.

To the left of their house was an open lot, not
a single bush or tree stood there. We would run about,
chasing each other as far as we could go—the gravel line
separating us from the blacktop road—then a shout from
the direction of the house sent us running the other way.
We’d run across the grassland, making our way to the
far-back corner of the lot, to the pole building. That’s
what my grandfather called it, but we referred to it as
the giant shed. The structure stood taller than a house,
and was a pale cream color. The large dark brown sliding
metal doors seemed all too inviting. If only we had been
a bit older with a little more strength. We’d race around
the building in search of anything worth doing until our
grandfather would arrive with the keys to the doors. With
awe, we’d watch as the screechy metal doors moved aside
to reveal my grandfather’s prized fishing boat he’s had for
nearly 20 years and boxes piled high with the overflow
of my grandmother’s inability to throw anything away:
party light candles, mismatched Tupperware, Lia Sophia
jewelry. He’d rummage around, moving this and that, until
he was able to drive his little riding lawn mower out.
He’d attach a wagon to the back, place a blanket in the
bottom to protect us from any splinters, and my brother
and I would climb in. He’d drive around the empty lot,
into the actual yard, past the only three trees still standing
on the far side of the house: a pine tree with limbs that
started half way up, and two others whose similar branches
never quite hit the ground. Then he would go through the
tall grass at the back of the pole building and into the trees
further back.

Our grandfather told us a story whenever we went
on our adventures. Remembering, he’d take us all the way
back when their house was surrounded by trees, nearly
in the woods, and he couldn’t see the neighbors’ houses.
A tornado had gone through not long after our mother
left for college. Their house survived minor injuries, just
broken windows and ripped up shingles. But the land was
another story. Nearly every tree that had once stood was
gone, lost to the powerful winds of the storm. He would
talk about how he and my uncle had cleared out all the
debris, chainsaws and axes cutting down the broken trees.
How they moved from their yard to their neighbors’, how
everything only took a few days to clean up. I wonder how
that change felt back then.
There has been plenty of change since. Since the
time I was a child in the back of the riding lawn mower.
My grandparents have torn down the house from my
youth and built a new one in its place. The new garage
sits unfinished, only housing their still-different cars. The
house is now larger, more modern than the one from
the story. Now, when I pull into the driveway and look
around, I still remember the story. Then, I notice in the
front yard, they planted a new tree.