Today’s 10-Minute Tuesday post (a day late) is on the prompt “Summer.”
The day had been its normal hot in Bakersfield that late summer day in 1968 when I was approaching 7 years old, the thermometer topping out at 100 dry degrees. My older sister and I had gone to bed in the cool back bedroom of my grandparent’s ranch house on Wible Road, anticipating a phone call about the birth of our new sibling.
I’m not sure where my brother was, but I don’t remember him being with us.
It felt right that that’s where I was awaiting this announcement, because I loved that ranch. I loved everything about the house and the grounds. I spent many days playing in the irrigation ditches among the cotton or alfalfa plants, whatever happened to be growing that season.
The smell of cut alfalfa still takes me back.
It always seemed to be summer when we spent time there, so hot was something I was used to. I clearly hear my grandmother “Mimi’s” voice yelling, “Close the door, the refrigeration is on!”
The kitchen of the ranch house was huge, the eating area separated from the cooking area by a bar. The windows looking out over the back yard with the brick walkway and covered outdoor kitchen area that I never remember being used as such. My great grandmother Nona’s house sat just feet away. The rose bushes in their neat rows bordered the side driveway where visitors often parked.
From the old wooden storage shed that held remnants of tractors and other paraphernalia of ranch life to the long rows of growing plants, everything about the place spoke of family history. And I loved it.
I remember one particular summer when I was either in junior high or high school. I went to Bakersfield to stay for a week. I spent most of it that summer at my great aunt “Zizi’s” apartment.
Zizi was my grandmother’s only surviving sister. They had lost my mother’s namesake, Ada, when she was young. Zizi, Zia Emma (“zia” being Italian for “aunt”), had never married, though she had been engaged at one point. We never really got the full story, only that she had moved back with my grandparents when she suffered a nervous breakdown in the aftermath.
That week I spent with Zizi, all I wanted to do was read. She tried to get me to go to the pool, but I only wanted to read. I don’t think she quite knew what to do with me.
Three years ago, my aunt—my mother’s sister—and her son—my cousin—made the decision to sell the house and land. It broke my heart. Never again would I spend any summer days in the stifling heat and lovely memories of that Wible Road home. My grandparents are gone. My great aunt is gone. No more card games with my Nona at the kitchen table of her little green house just a few yards from my grandparents’ place.
My heart yearns for them, those lazy summer days and my precious Italian family.
Oh yeah, and my newborn sibling was a girl. Not that she’s a side note; it just happened to be this memory that first came to mind at the word “summer.”
I have so much more to say about this place, but my 10 minutes are up :-). I will touch on this again in a future post.