Monday, May 12, 2014

Five Good Things







Big changes are happening. Happening for my family in Pasadena... the ripples are spreading out from there, and we are all feeling the shift. My aunt Becky and Grandmother Eunice are leaving California. I can only begin to imagine what this means for them, for my cousins. We can see what wonderful opportunities are opening up, but it cannot be easy for them to take these steps, in this new direction. For as long as I can remember, I've always had an aunt Becky in Los Angeles, and growing up, that's always felt like a second home, a base. It still does... but not for much longer. Gee, I hope my cousins have floor space for a favorite prima, and her mokos, in their new place.

The day we went to see everyone, Pasadena was too kind. It was a beautiful day, and the garden was inviting. We shared lunch under the grape arbor, catching up with uncle Henry and Aunt Eva. Maria filled her notebook with her naturalist's sketches of her aunt Becky's fruit trees, and plants. My Mommy came from Oregon, staying to help tie up loose ends. Henry and Eva have been working, practically tirelessly, and most productively... the house looks tip top. And aunt Becky? It was good to see her relaxed, and to know that some very nice, new, adventures await her and Grandmother.

In fact, the only thing wrong with the visit... it was too short. I hope to squeeze in one last visit before everything is finalized. Actually, thinking about this was the only thing that kept me from crying. Next time, I will cry. It cannot be helped. The whole drive north, I thought about how tied I feel to Los Angeles, to my aunt and cousins, to the memories our family has made there. Growing up, there were times we would spend three weekends a month visiting, and weeks in the summer. I was born there. My brother was born there. My mother's stories, the ones I loved to hear over and over, played out in Los Angeles, around the rails, the River, the library, Downtown. Odd thing... if I talk about driving through L.A., it's a hideous, traffic horror. It is a sprawling, hot mess, that city. But if I stop somewhere, walk the tree lined streets, visit the familiar spots, the old places that are connected to the stories I have heard around the dining table, then Los Angeles is dear, and rich, it is a layer cake, with delicious familiar sights, and gorgeous colors, and it nurtures my soul. El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula, te quiero. I love you, because history, my own, and my families', connect us.

As a child, I imagined that my own children would have many of the same experiences that I grew up with, and sometimes I catch myself still believing that I can hand them those moments that I knew, that shaped me. It rarely works that way, I suppose. We don't visit an abuelo, Big Al, in his shop on Olvera Street. Grandmother doesn't have a cold pool on Workman Mill Road. No more Sunday school at Alhambra First Baptist Church, or reunions at El Salvador. Fourth of July in the street, in front of Aunt Becky's house, lighting everything on fire, screaming with my cousins, is a bright memory. I can practically feel watermelon juice dripping down our arms. Our pets, our giggles, our Christmas wishes, and new shoes, bicycling, swimming, making tamales... those memories are vivid, still, and I know it must be because they are some of the best, and I have always wanted the best for my own children, too.

Maybe they don't know Los Angeles, the way I did... William, Alex, Max, and Maria... a little bit, in many ways, Los Angeles is part of you, too, because it's a part of your family history and it connects you. Someday, you might realize it is a familiar place, and I hope you will have a happy feeling for good times we have enjoyed there. The better part is that, though places may be dear, family is what really matters, and wherever your family is, wherever you can share memories, and make new memories, you will enjoy what is best in life, and even the big changes will not be so difficult to manage.

Good Things...

1. Family meals, the company, the stories, all the kinds of nurturing that comes around tables.

2. Drawing happy memories from childhood, and enjoying the bittersweet realization that those moments are gone.

3. Anticipating summer... travels, visits, family, and new moments.

4. Mothers. Women who nurture. Aunts, grandmothers, sisters, cousins, spirited, mild, wild, devoted, caring women.

5. Watching my nine year old daughter, and my ninety-two year old grandmother, pouring over the pages of a Calvin and Hobbes book, together, laughing... the best.

Share your good things, please. I love to hear from you, you know.

4 comments:

  1. 1. My kids, who stepped up for Mother's Day.
    2. An excuse to make cookies.
    3. Gardening.
    4. Ibuprofen.
    5. Chickenblog.

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  2. When my mother grew older, stopped driving, and lost a dear friend, she felt a bit isolated. So she sold her big house and moved up North a few blocks from my brother so she could watch her little grandson grow up. It was the best decision she ever made. She found two new best friends (with cars!) and the three of them were inseparable, going on adventures together and exploring the area. So even though I missed having her live near me, those last 10 years of her life were some of the happiest for her. For whatever reason Aunt Becky and Grandmother Eunice are moving away, new friends, adventures and memories await them.

    Zan

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  3. Beautiful writing, Natalie! Bittersweet too. My parents were both born and raised in LA, but it's a stranger to me, though I lived in nearby Long Beach for 30 years, I feel most at home here in San Diego County where I was born and raised and to which I have now returned. Those beautiful childhood memories we have are wonderful to relive when they come back to us so strongly. I hope you have many more occasions to enjoy them with your remaining LA relatives. And all the best to your aunt and grandmother as they move on to another chapter in their lives.

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  4. My best thing this week was taking my daughter with me to catch a swarm of bees in the city...after I got them into the hive, she sat down on the sidewalk beside the hive as bees buzzed around her, allowing bees to land on her hands and arms...it was innocent and brave and non-typical for a kid. Wonderful!

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