This last weekend, John, Claire, Graham and I flew to Fresno, then drove 40 minutes to my hometown in Reedley. I love going home. I love the good memories of the people and places of my childhood. I love showing my family now what my family then was like.
Sometimes I feel a little panicky about losing my past. I may be one of the last to hold some of the important memories. I don’t want them to be lost. Sometimes being a Record Keeping Rememberer is such a heavy job. I also worry that others may not really even care to know the things I know or to feel the things I’ve felt. They have their own memories to hang on to, they’re not interested in mine. I wish that didn’t make me feel sad, but it does.
Ian Frazier, author of Family, describes his thoughts at his mother’s deathbed in this way:
“Soon all the people who had accompanied me through life would be gone, too, and then even the people who had known us, and no one would remain on earth who had ever seen us, and those descended from us perhaps would know stories about us, perhaps once in a while they would pass by buildings where we had lived and they would mention that we had lived there. And then the stories would fade, and the graves would go untended, and no one would guess what it had been like to wake before dawn in our breath-warmed bedrooms as the radiators clanked and our wives and husbands and children slept.”
I thought about that as I wandered through the home where I grew up. There are different books on the shelves now, and the furniture was all changed after my mom died, but the place is like a box for my memories.
I looked at the patched hole in my old bedroom door where my brother kicked it after I escaped from his wrath. I felt how my bedroom drawers still stick when I pull them out and I remembered where I used to keep my stuff. The mirrors and the hair dryer that was mounted on my bedroom wall are gone, along with all my bookshelves and the bulletin board. My room is a guest room for other people now. I am a guest there. I wish I could step back in time and see it again as it was.
Below are a few photos I snapped, of this and that, things to remind me of where I came from.
Reedley is famous for the Blossom Trail each year in February and March. People travel from all over to drive through the countryside and see the blossoms. It’s a peaceful and fragrant time in the Valley, as preparations begin for the busy hot harvest months.Peaches and nectarines have pink blossoms. Plums and almonds have white.New varieties are grafted in.
Our backyard, looking north:
Here is the pool where we cooled off in the summer heat. I came out here often late at night, after a date, or activity, and I would sit, stare at the sky and dream about my future.
The back door, where all the comings and goings happened. Today my Dad’s walker waits here for him. The boot scraper and metal shoe mat are the same.
This bench is where the milk man would leave our milk each week when I was young.
Dad’s office still feels the same, with his farm books and pictures of Germany on the walls. Every year my brothers and I raised money for Christmas by picking and selling tangerines. The sign is the same–used for the last 40-50 years. Fruit still hangs on the citrus trees and the tangerine stand is still in the driveway, now closer to the house where they can keep an eye on it. But now the money box has a lock on it. When I was there, we used a quart jar and trusted everyone to leave money and not take it.
These Camellia flowers reminded me of my grandma’s flower garden next door. She grew pink, red and white camellias.
Dad’s old boots.
Dad in his recliner.
Last Sunday after church, we drove part of the Blossom Trail. These almond orchards were spectacular. The blossoms petals on the ground looked like snow!
The vineyards are also in bloom–with Fiddleneck, the golden flower we hated as kids. They made our legs itch as we worked in the fields tying vines and taking out the stump wood. We had to take the wood out of several rows every day after the pruning was finished.
Here are two of our old vineyard wagons my dad built that we used to take the wood out of the vineyards. We’d put the sideboards in, and pull these long narrow wagons behind the tractor. Driving was the fun job, so we rotated who got to be on the tractor. Between my two brothers and me, we’d take 3 rows at a time, one walking on each side of the one we drove down. As we walked the rows, we searched for the stumps and wood pieces that were too large to be disced under. These larger wood pieces were hucked into the vineyard wagon. The tractor driver watched the middle row and alerted the others when there was a big piece. We saved all of this wood in woodpiles to be used in our fireplaces and in grandma’s kitchen wood stove throughout the rest of the year.
These are the old tractors we used. They’re still used to pull the bin trailers in from the fields today.
This is the tractor I learned to drive on at about age 8.
We took a drive up into the foothills Sunday afternoon, to Wonder Valley, then on to Squaw Valley. The Lupine bushes were amazing!
On our way home, we drove through Orange Cove, where my mother taught school for many years. Mom was a 3rd grade teacher and she loved being in the class room. She said 3rd graders were the best age–still innocent and inquisitive. She taught reading and cursive handwriting like no other. At the end of every summer I got to go with her to G. W. School Supply in Fresno to pick out new things to decorate her bulletin boards with. Then we’d go decorate and set up her classroom before the first days of school. I loved doing that with her.
We also drove over to Kings View Hospital Farm. Dad leased and farmed this farm during all of my childhood years. The Mennonite Church manages the hospital. It used to be a hospital for the mentally ill. Dad farmed 43 acres of Thompson Seedless raisins, Simka, Friar and Santa Rosa plums and some peaches there. In the earlier years, we’d move the fruit sizer packing machine into the orchard and pack fruit on site. Later all the fruit was hauled to our packing shed.
The farm backed up to the Kings River. Sometimes we’d fish there or go hunting for bullfrogs. In the early summer we ate mulberries from the wild trees that grew along the river banks. Kings View was an extension of our back yard, a few miles away. We came and went freely, usually on our bicycles, then on mini bikes or motorcycles. The patients never bothered us and we never bothered them. We were told most were from rich families in LA. One time we happened upon a group of them skinny dipping in the river. That was unexpected!!
Kings View had this swimming pool for the patients. In the evenings, after long hot days of summer work, Dad would take us to the pool here. This was in the years before we had our own pool All 3 of us were on the swim team in Reedley, and we loved the water. We’d beg to go to the pool. We went 3 or 4 times each week. There used to be a diving board where we learned to do front and back flips. We’d turn the pool lights on and rescue moths and bugs that flew into the water. We loved this pool.
This is my grandparents’ home on Road 52, next to our home. After coming to America from Germany, Rudolf and Elsa eventually purchased this home and they raised their family here. The house used to be all white and Grandma’s Camellia bushes were on the northeast corner (lower right in this picture). Eric’s packing shed now stands on this property where Grandpa’s old barn used to be. Eric rents the home to a gal who helps clean the shed in the evenings after the packers go home.
Eric took us on a farm tour. He took us around the farm and explained to the kids and John about grafting trees and branches, pollination, irrigation, fertilizers and insecticides, and all those kinds of farm things.
Our first night at home we had dinner at Foster’s Freeze, where we ate after every home swim meet all summer long. I’d always order a cheeseburger, fries and a lime slush.
We had a great long weekend in Reedley. It included some really great Mexican food from Sal’s in Selma and Ortega’s in Reedley. It was great to be with family and to remember parts and pieces of my childhood there.
Eric, Dad and me before the goodbyes.Until we meet again, dear people in a dear place.