Corner View: Roots

Roots. When I think of roots I think of putting down roots. The setting up of a place to live, putting in a garden, getting pets and giving them forever homes, planting trees and watching them grow through the  years. It is notches on a door frame marking the growth of a child. A clothesline.

My grandparents were able to put down roots. They met, married, saved and bought land, built their own home, paying for supplies as they went along. In 1948 they started their house with help from family building the actual house. By 1949 they were finished, everything paid for. Over the years they added two rooms, remodeled two or three times including moving the kitchen into a new room and turning the old kitchen into a dining area. It sits on an acre and a half of land, covered with pecan trees my grandfather started from pecans he found. There are pear, loquat and peach trees. There is a a very old  grape vine that winds around a pecan tree and now then will still give grapes. My Grandmother put in the rose bushes and flowered vines that are scattered about. She said to me that every time she had a fight with my Grandfather and felt bad, she would cheer herself up and go buy a plant to put in. I laughed when she told me that as I looked around and saw so many flowers.

I have always wanted what my Grandparents have. The sprawling yard, the simple and modest house, the job of maintaining trees and watching them grow through the years. They had chickens and at one time goats. I have eaten calabasita and had pumpkin that they grew in their  backyard. They have worked hard but have also been lucky.

Several blocks away, where the San  Felipe Springs runs, is a small bridge to drive over into the neighborhood called San Felipe. For years and years I loved crossing that bridge and seeing an old pinkish stucco house with plants in colorful pots on the patio that ran the width of the house.  There was also a yellow wood framed house that sat next to it, always with sheets on the clothesline. There were cars parked off to the sides of the homes and the others that surrounded them in the neighborhood. No garages or carports, really, just cars that sat under the shade of large trees that, like the homes, looked as if they had been there for 80 years or more.

When I was a teenager and imagined myself grown up and living on my own, I pictured a cute little stucco house with a yard, shade trades, potted plants on my patio and clothesline off to the side. For some reason, given all the freedom of my imagination, I never pictured an aging mansion, or a two story home like the ones I liked so much on one of my favorite streets in town. I never created a new house or modern home. It still bothers me to this day why I wanted such a modest, tiny abode. Did I not dream big?  I really can't remember if it was maybe a sign of no goals, or goals set very low or maybe what or how I thought of myself at the time. But I do remember how those little houses greeted me with such serene happiness. Something about them cheered me up when I'd see them. Something about them sent me dreaming of tomato gardens and lovely tin can planters, the beauty in things that age and fade under the sun. I was charmed by these homes and by the lives I imagined were being lived in them.

In 1998 a flood swept half that neighborhood away, the homes, the people in those homes and the lives they led were tragically lost overnight. The high water came from the San Felipe Springs in the middle of the night, no warning, some people never woke up. Those homes stood there for decades, rooted it seemed for decades to come. The entire time they were really existing precariously on a flood plain. The trees that surrounded the two homes remain.

Three summers ago I parked the truck and with August ventured into what was once the backyard of the pink stucco home because I spotted a fig tree. Other people were gathered around the huge tree picking the fruit. I clearly remember that I felt like I was trespassing. I remember feeling a sadness picking the fruit off a tree that once belonged to someone who must have suffered terribly or perished that night when nature turned on them. I would pause and look around. I saw was a sign that said something about FEMA and not being allowed to build on the land. At the base of the tree was a partially buried pile of old brick. I could hear the springs running.  I recently visited the tree again. Still, sadness. I wondered, did they sit outside on the porch just to hear the spring flowing over rocks and through tall grasses and reeds?  Did they enjoy the figs from their own backyard? Did they feel protected under the branches of the massive tree that had been there longer than my Grandmother could remember? They had put down roots that I could still feel under my own feet.

Corner View: Sunshine

It began with a touch of photosensitivity. A walk in the sunshine, after the rain, caused my eyes to recoil. A visit to the eye doctor on a chilly, damp morning brought on a rare bout with allergic asthma. Having to stop nursing immediately, due to eye drops, brought on all day nausea. Then, finally, a terrible cold conquered me and I slowly began to blur. I only remember my mom being ill twice and how worried I was because it just didn't happen.

August had sick eyes and a drippy nose but more energy than I did and took over the house. It took all my focus and strength to feed her that day. She had no real appetite. The walk from my room to the kitchen became increasingly littered with tiny plastic dishes, wooden blocks, toys, toys, toys. The living room floor carpeted with stuffed animals and all the discarded clothes from August's many costume changes, or maybe because I was at first too hot then too cold and adjusted the thermostat accordingly. Soon every toy was out of it's house and partying in every room. There was nothing I could do. I sat on my bed, in my Vapor Rub scented room, trying to stream something entertaining but it was always choppy. There is something wrong with something on my old and slow computer.

August came in with her doctor kit quite often to tend to me. She brought me toilet paper for my nose. She gave me lots of kisses, put her hands on my face and asked if I was better. She was also mourning our nursing days and neither one of us knew if they were gone forever or just on hold. I had that to ponder as I blew and blew my nose.

After waking up to a coughing fit at 4am, I made an appointment for August. While on the phone I wondered how I was going to get the energy to drive to the doctor's office. I made an appointment for myself as well since I would already be there anyway. I was worried about her ears and lungs. Her doctor said she was fine, just a cold, chamomile tea with lots of honey. My doctor also diagnosed me with nothing more than a cold. Fortunately and quite unfortunately I have little experience with colds. I had the avian flu in 1994. No colds, just  allergies, sore throats but no colds. As she left the room, August told her, "I am going to take care of my Mommy." That's medicine.

Later that day, after much online research and a phone call to Canada, I was secure with the information I had found regarding nursing and the eye drops. It was fine. We resumed our slow weaning project. Our noses stopped running, the coughs went away and our appetites returned. August asked if I was better. I said yes and her little face lit up. Seeing that lit up my heart. We started piecing the house back together.

Corner View: Somewhere Else

Last Saturday I woke up to a beautiful morning so August and I took our walk around the neighborhood much earlier than usual. I set out at 9:59am. There were garage sales all over the place and we stopped at each one of them to look and chat. There were so many knick-knacks and relics from my childhood: old Avon perfume bottles, faded Tupperware sets, macrame wall hangings, boxes full of polyester fabric, handmade Christmas ornaments, cassette tapes, mix tapes, plastic baby dolls made in Hong Kong, Time-Life cookbooks... Our walk began weaving in and out between the past and the present. The memories started to transport me somewhere else but the blue sky and August's questions and observations would bring me back.

While chatting with a charming woman about quilting, sewing and her collection of measuring spoons, I asked her if she does a lot of baking. She answered that she once did, that she once did a little bit of everything. From what she had for sale on her driveway, she did. She gave me a Christmas tray, a cute set of measuring spoons, several yards of a pretty, flowery, light weight cotton material she wanted to turn into a sundress and oh so many thoughts. I am right were she had been, trying and doing a little bit of everything, the baking, the sewing, craft projects. Her baby was a few years older than me and came out to say she would return later to help her put things back in the garage.

August reminded me that I promised her time at the playground. It was just across the street from the driveway that had just manage to fill me with all sorts of philosophical ruminations... under a clear blue sky. Feeling like we had already been out for several hours and all morning long, I checked the time. 10:45. We had only been out 45 minutes. I headed for the playground checking the time again, puzzled. Where had we been for what seemed like hours and hours, but not even one hour? I went over the conversations I had with people in the neighborhood, the singing with August, all those questions I answered for her, stopping for birds, squirrels and flowers, photographing an oak bed I wanted to maybe purchase. It didn't add up. At the playscape I showed August the time and told her we'd leave once the time read 11:15. She flipped over while swinging on her tummy, poor thing. We headed home at exactly 11:00.