My mom sent out an email, to me, my brothers, some cousins. "Happy Summer," read the subject, and I thought she was sending something from Grandmother's birthday, or the Oregon family moving day. But it was this blast from the past! Hans and I searched Google Earth in hopes of tracking down the exact Whittier house, where Grandma and Grandpa had the polar-cold pool, the cat named Rufus, and those two nippy pups, Chiquitin and Major. Our Los Angeles summers were happy, in Whittier, and Alhambra, at Olvera Street. Happy family summers... don't be fooled by Hans' expression... (insert sister laugh, here.)
The house is still there. The long driveway, and the cul-de-sac where we rode the giant tricycle, and lit hoards of fireworks, stinky ground charring snakes and dazzling ground bloom flowers. Inside, Grandmother kept the house comfortable, tidy, their nice things were familiar, somehow reassuring. Her owls, and African violets, the many neat stacks of books... I cannot see any of these without sighing wistfully, and missing her. She had the softest towels, and always good aromas happening in the kitchen. I think she could make a delicious caldito, stew or soup, from anything, and with a toasted tortilla, well, that would be heaven to have right now. Hot summers in Los Angeles smelled of gardenias, mowed lawns, and the congestion and pace of a sprawling city... if that is a smell. If there wasn't an invitation to a friend's pool, like Blanca Arellano's, then at least we had sprinklers to run around in. Then Grandma and Grandpa moved into the Whittier house, with the pool and slide and diving board. The pool was unheated, and was always shockingly cold. The best times were when the day was hot enough for even Grandfather to cannonball in, and to find Grandmother, too, holding the ledge, joining us in the water.
When my own children were growing up I realized that cousins make excellent playmates and friends. Not perfect, or trouble free, but like having a batch of fresh siblings to play with, to quarrel with, to enjoy secrets and giggles, to share in the joys, and some minor woes, of days together. The house, on the map, on my computer screen, has changed very little, but it took a while to find, because I had to scan and sort through all the freeways, and malls, the industrial parks, even time itself to find it. The world is so much bigger, now. We are not so insulated, as we were then, in that place. We live further apart, see each other far less often. Thank goodness for this picture of a happy summer, and all of the funny, irritating, clear, faint, and dear memories this brings to mind.