Working With Memory
Some of my happiest childhood memories come from spending time at my grandparent’s home. Here are only a few. The house was small by today’s standards but I loved it. In the front yard were two sycamore trees and I loved looking at the bark because it reminded me of puzzle pieces. The backyard had two apricot trees that I loved to climb and when they had ripe fruit, it was heaven to pick the juicy apricots and eat them. My grandpa always had a vegetable garden where he also planted sweet peas that smelled so wonderful all summer. Closer to the house was a black walnut tree and next to it was a bush with orange smelling flowers. At the back of the house was a cellar with a door that you had to lift up. There were shelves of canned fruit and vegetables down there but there were also black widow spiders so I was not supposed to go down to the cellar alone. One time I did go down alone and was bitten by a spider and had to go to the doctor to have the wound lanced. Lesson learned.
As far as garments are concerned I remember a silk robe that was sent to my grandmother by my aunt Bess who was living in Japan in 1949. One day I found it in the front bedroom closet and was awed by the vivid colors and the intricate embroidery. I can’t remember seeing my grandmother ever wearing it but I know that I wished that I could. (I was only about four years old.) It was not only beautiful, it was different and I liked that about it.
Another garment that I fondly remember was my grandfather’s overalls. He worked for the Santa Fe railroad and when he came home, the smell of tobacco covered those overalls and I loved that. He rolled his own cigarettes and kept the tobacco pouch in his overalls front pocket.
Where I grew up in California, it gets very hot in the summer. One of my favorite things was sleeping in the front bedroom with my grandmother. We would sleep with our heads at the end of the bed so we could feel the cooler night air. In the morning, we were awakened by the mourning doves.
In the front room was a cabinet and in the bottom drawer were loads of old pictures. I would go through them over and over and wonder who the people were. Grandma would tell me stories about some of the people. I learned that my great grandfather taught music at the college level and could play most every string instrument and the pipe organ. He also did a few drawings. Recently I found those pictures in a box that I had saved from ruin in my mother’s garage. I had kept them through numerous moves because they were so precious to me. I have tried to organize them along with the stories that I know. Doing that work, I found out more about my ancestry on my mother’s side which has given me a sense of the history that has made me who I am.