The musings of an academic geek yogi
The House on East California
I hope you have a magic place to ponder during this quarantine; a place that on thinking fills you with calm, nostalgia and makes you smile.
The Day the House Disappeared
Six years ago, in 2014 we celebrated my daughters 7th birthday at Rosemary’s Creamery. I remember the noise of her fidgety bare legs peeling away from the smurf blue stools as her heels clanked the white metal chair legs. I am remiss to think how many times I have ordered the ‘black and tan’ sundae, a mountain of hot fudge and caramel on toasted almond ice cream. Every birthday I feel like I am six years old again dueling spoons with my twin sister and scrapping globs from poorly designed glass boats that make the entire process sticky and fun.
On this day, as we waited for the orders to arrive my grandmother showed me a photo of an empty dirt lot on the small pixelated screen of her flip phone. I had no idea what I was looking at until she remarked that she was upset that they "bulldozed the house." Only later would she realize that I was completely unaware that the house was gone. Until that moment, it was still where it had always been. On a busy street with commercial buildings, the yard eager for spring, the bougainvillea blooming early and obstructing the front doorway and the rose bushes softening the cold metal gate that surrounded the perimeter.
Growing Up Homeless
I lived so many places growing up I actually never felt like I had a “home.” I learned recently that I lived in Texas during parts of my infancy but not long enough to recall. When we returned to Bakersfield and left my grandparents house, we moved around. I could not tell you the address, or color or any details about those places. They were just places:
the spot with the teal laundry room
the room on Niles Street
the place across from the elementary school
the duplex on Belle Terrace
the other duplex on Belle Terrace
the house on Columbus
the one by the 58 Freeway
Over the years we also bunked up with friends but there was one place that I have always considered my sanctuary and that is the little house on East California. My generation knew this sacred soil as “Honey’s House.” Until recently, I thought it was only the beautiful women who lived within those walls that made it so special. But Honey passed away over a decade ago and for years I still drove out of my way to visit this place just to see the structure and feel renewed.
The Yellow Phone
If I could stop that bulldozer and save one artifact it would be the yellow rotary phone that lived on the kitchen wall. I once asked my aunt why we did not have a cordless phone and she aimed fierce ojitos at me as she recalled the audacity of a telephone company worker who had once made the offer to replace her “old” banana colored phone. She never said what happen to that idiot man and I came to realize her loyalty to our phone was founded. As a teen I spent hours lying on the green linoleum floor that slanted towards the kitchens backdoor talking on that phone. In the tiny makeshift kitchen that forgot it was once a porch. Even now, I can see my great-great-great aunt honey perched on her kitchen stool and chatting away.
I am the last and 5th generation that lived in that same little house with my great-great-great aunt Honey in 1998. My cousin Lisa and several of her fury friends lived there in the early 90’s. My grandmother Arlene and Great-Uncle Carl shared the home with their Grandparents and Aunt in the 50’s. My grandparents, Ted and Arlene Jiron were married in that house by Judge Noriega in 1961. The true history of the house on East California Avenue could span several novels. Too young to know everything I am old enough to understand how the foundation of this tiny building supported our enormous family as it grew.
Today, the tidy garden, creaky floor and the mint green bathtub exist only in my memories. The remnants of a family dwelling demolished to make room for a commercial strip mall. Google earth archived the place I still see in my mind, the place I go to when I need to find peace.
8/13/2020 08:26:16 pm
What a beautiful story, Chris. I can imagine this brings many memories of comfort whenever you conjure it in your mind.
8/13/2020 09:05:52 pm
You should write a book! I am Tony and Gloria's sister in law, My husband, second oldest of the Gonzalez family, Eduardo Matehuala Gonzalez (Edward to me) died 7 years ago. We were next door neighbors in the Loma on Robinson Street. We became a couple when I was 14 and he, 17. Married 47 years, 5 amazing kids, 13 grandkids. I get the same feeling as you when I sometimes cruise down "our" street. When we were kids, we didn't care about material things, it was the warmth and love and good food regardless if it was refried beans and homemade tortillas that made us feel heavenly. I'm Sara's aunt. . . . .if you hadn't figured that out.
8/14/2020 11:50:50 am
Reading this I felt emerged in the story. Please write a book!
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