Gathering Stories!

Paul & Me in our first swimming pool.

Dad and Kris came from CA this week for Adam’s Homecoming.  It’s great to have them here.  Dad turned 82 this year and Kris retired from her full time nursing career.  They came bearing boxes of persimmons and pomegranates and walnuts from Reedley.  Yum.  Let the holidays begin!

Last year I digitized a box of Dad’s old slides from the 1950s and 60s. We have been going through them on my computer screen, one by one.  We’ve visited his life on the farm in Reedley, his two years as a conscientious objector doing volunteer work at a hospital in Maryland, and some of our early family photos.  I’m capturing the descriptions and stories as he tells them, right out of his mouth.  It’s so fun and interesting.  I feel like we’ve been time travelers.

We talked about doing this method of gathering stories in my Family History class a few weeks ago.  It’s a fun way to coax stories out of the generations ahead of us using pictures.  I’ve loved every minute of it.  It’s much more than just identifying people and places, it’s gathering details from all the other things in these photos.  The furniture, the clothing, the hidden stories waiting to be told.  I’ve learned all about farm equipment Dad built, scrapers, sprayers, French plows, Grandpa’s thinning platform, the big flatbed trailer, the vineyard wagons, the irrigation and ditches, and details about the home I grew up in that I never knew.

Last week in my Memoir class I turned in a “Location Essay” about the swimming pools we had in our back yard as I was growing up.  Dad and I found pictures of the old farm house we lived in until 1968.  There were a few pictures of our back yard playground–with the swing set and the clotheslines and our favorite little blue swimming pool that we filled with a hose.  It had orange corners we dove from.  We loved that pool!

There were also photos of the old house from 1957 before the water tank tower was torn down.  I learned that our next pool, the corn tank pool, was originally the water tank that supplied water from the well and pump for our house. Dad said it used to be 6 feet high and 8 feet across.  He took the top section of the tank off, removing the rivets that held the sheets of metal together.  The tank stored corn for the animals next door at Grandpa’s for a year or two, then it became our swimming pool I wrote about that pool in the essay I just turned in.  Now I have pictures to go with my story.

Gathering these stories is such fun.  I loved growing up on a farm in an old house surrounded by a playground of farm equipment and cotton and alfalfa fields and vineyards and orange trees and a backyard with sheets drying on the line and our simple swimming pools.  It was pretty close to a perfect childhood.  I’ve loved returning there this week, reliving the carefree years of my childhood.

The old farm house with the water tower that housed the water tank that became our swimming pool.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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