You can't go home again
When I was cleaning yesterday, a small photograph of the house I lived in from age 3 to 12 came up, from where I don't know.
The house at 3948 Walnut St., Baldwin Park, CA 91706-2904 is the same place, with more numbers on it, 60 years later.
My dad bought a house that was really just a two-car garage somewhat converted, so that it had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and kitchen with an eating area fitted neatly inside that space.
The street ran north and south, so the house faced our driveway on the south side of our property. Our bedrooms were in the west end, the eating area in the east, with the living area to the south.
The neighbor's driveway ran right behind our house. We each had very long narrow lots, which allowed for animals at the back, out of sight.
My dad built two more bedrooms at that house, and an extension to the eating area with a laundry room for my mother to use.
I remember her wringing out the wet clothes, and hanging them on the lines outside the back door. Sometimes I helped bring the laundry in when it was dry.
Around the house we had flowerbeds that she weeded ferociously. Beyond the midline of the property there were hutches for guinea pigs we tried to raise, unsuccessfully. The empty hutches were there long after the animals were gone.
In season there was a large garden. Sometimes it was my job to move the water to soak the plants appropriately, and I would lose focus, so the water would run everywhere. Then we enjoyed the mud until my dad's anger ended the fun.
Of course, we had no air conditioning, or central heating, so winters we huddled around a vertical heater in the corner of the living room, and summers we lolled in the shade and cool grass as much as possible. We wore T-shirts, shorts and no shoes.
Usually the nights were cool even if the days were quite warm.
We had swings and lots of dirt to dig through. The front yard was covered in grass that required weekly mowing, a tiresome job that I shared in, but I still love the smell of newly cut grass.
The street across the way was lined with palm trees that swayed and swished in the wind, and sometimes dropped huge fronds with stems like swords that would've cut me painfully had I been there at the right moment.
There were no sidewalks.
Our property was fenced all around, keeping the dog in most of the time, but not the kids. We wandered to all the neighbors, getting a cookie here and a popcorn ball there, petting their cats (my dad hated cats), being chased by the geese and checking on the baby rabbits.
The retired people who lived nearby had plenty of time to talk to us. No one ever rushed us or themselves. Up the street there was a field with a horse staked out that we were forbidden to bother, but we tried to pet him anyway, and he kicked my sister. We never told our parents that, though.
I went to see that house 50 years later. Another house filled the spot in front, close to the street. Our old house had had a facelift, and now has a beige Spanish stucco exterior instead of the yellow clapboard surface.
The front door is in the same place, but the large elm that shaded it is gone now. The woman who lives there now declined to let me inside, but I probably wouldn't recognize it anyway.
My dad managed to get us a better house, in a better neighborhood one town over. The night before we moved I lay in my bed, considering what it meant to move for the first time in my memory. I decided it wasn't the house that was so important, but my family, and we were all moving the next day, so it would be OK.
I have moved often since then.Moving doesn't bother me at all. The family going along is what makes it a good thing.
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Lunch is served at noon three days a week at a cost of $5 per person. This week's menu features lasagna, garlic bread and chocolate cookies Friday, March 6; chicken with broccoli and penne pasta and chocolate bundt cake Monday, March 9; and corn chowder, roast beef sandwiches and strawberry shortcake Wednesday, March 11.
The West Linn Adult Community Center is located at 1180 Rosemont Road.
Mary Jean Rivera is a volunteer with the West Linn Adult Community Center.
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