There were, in fact, lots of cool-if-kitschy things in my grandparents’ house. There were swinging saloon doors between the kitchen and the master suite. There was a toilet seat made of transparent plastic, with ticket stubs from horse races embedded therein. There was a globe wine bar (pictured!). There was a mounted goat head (the goat was named Bucky) on whose antlers my granddad hung his golf caps. There was a stuffed pheasant whose chest feathers were smooth as silk. There was a kitchen bar of green marbled formica and swively kitchen chairs of red pleather. There was an automatic ice dispenser on the refrigerator, which was a rare and awe-inspiring thing in the 1970’s. There was a mirrored tray holding bejeweled perfume bottles with atomizers in the guest bathroom. There were two huge oil paintings – one of my aunt, with beautifully frosted hair, holding a Pug, one of my older sister as a toddler sitting on a John Deere tractor. The fact that these oil paintings came from Japan, where my uncle had them commissioned from photographs while he was stationed there during the War, made them hopelessly exotic. There was also a swimming pool with a cabana in the backyard, although the tragedy of my childhood was that its foundation was cracked and thus could not be used for swimming (it was a pretty great place to roller skate, though).
But the best thing was the golf course. It was a three-hole putt-putt course, complete with minor obstacles – a hill here, a curve there. The course took up about three-quarters of the room; on the fourth wall there was a rock waterfall that ended in a little pool, tinkling musically. The course was surrounded by plant bedding, mulch and gravel that hosted all kinds of growing things – ferns and flowers and spider plants and a huge rubber tree (which we called “the beanstalk”) that grew up to the ceiling and then curved back down toward the floor – really it was as much a greenhouse as a golf course; and in fact now that I think about it, my grandmother always referred to the room as “the flower garden” (am I right about that, Mom?). My grandmother had quite the green thumb, but I can’t imagine how much time it took to keep all those plants alive.
I’m not sure if I ever actually putted in this room, but it was the perfect place to hide, or to spy, or to enact elaborate “let’s pretend” scenarios with stuffed animals or Barbie dolls. It was fun to just poke around – there was always a surprise to be found: a ceramic frog with a crooked crown; an African violet; a fuzzy cactus. I still remember the earthy flowery smell of it; I still remember how it felt to run through the room in bare feet – the prickliness of the Astroturf of the course, the cold smoothness of the paving stones by the waterfall.
It was completely normal to me, this golf course in my grandparent’s house; I remember how gobsmacked Chris was when he first saw it. I don’t know – I’ve never asked – why my grandparents decided to build it, what the thought process was that led to its existence. Was it just the natural combination of Granddad’s love of golf and Grandma’s love of gardening? My grandparents moved out of this house a few years ago; from what I understand it’s now in a state of disrepair and not likely to be occupied any time soon. (Who would buy a house with a golf course in it?) I wonder what happened to all the plants; was the beanstalk chopped down and removed? It makes me sad that I’ll never see it again, that my kids will never play there, that I don’t even have a decent picture of it. What I wouldn’t give, to run through it one more time.
(I’d totally like a globe wine bar, too.)