Long, Long Ago   6 comments

It seemed like perfect timing, after thinking about Gramps lately, when dear SIL Elizabeth sent me some pictures that she found around her house.  I was so glad to get them . . . especially one.

When my brothers and I were kids, the high point of our year was the summer at Grandma and Grandpa Kelly’s ranch.  It was in Williams, California, a little farming community above Sacramento.  We took very few pictures there.  I can only remember two, both lost — until Elizabeth sent this one.  I remember the occasion well.  Mom and Dad had left me at the ranch, and gone on to . . . I think it was Lake Tahoe.  When they came back, they brought me this little Indian outfit, and I posed in front of the house.


I think I was six or seven here, my brother Bruce a baby, and brother Jim not yet born.  If I look a bit stiff, it’s because I was embarrassed.  The little vest was open in the front, and if I didn’t hold it shut, it showed my chest!  Like I had any chest, at that point.  I can’t explain the supersized pants.  In the background are the famous steps that Jim fell down some years later, scarring his knee.

That house in the background, the dearly loved center of our summers, was a bit peculiar.  It was basically a little shanty, tacked on to the front of a work in progress — the main house that Gramps was building bit by bit, whenever he had a bit of spare time.  That was not often, so it grew slowly.  But the little temporary house served us kids just fine.

I remember so much from those years . . . sleeping in the big bedroom (it was a future living room) under the comforting drone of the cooler.  I hated it when Grandma turned it off as she came to bed.  Going to the drive-in, with a batch of home-made ice cream (white peach!) in the pickup bed.  Uncle Jerry, a handsome young man full of Irish blarney.  Aunt Judy; I have a memory her as a lovely teenager, standing in front of the sink on the porch. She was carefully washing a large bullfrog before boxing it up, wrapping it, and giving it to her boyfriend as a present.  The animals . . . Inky, the farm dog.  (He bit.)  Lady and Amber, Aunt Judy’s horses.  Too many kittens to count.  And the sheep . . . it seemed they always had something wrong with them.  Gramps had so many “bummer” lambs to bring up on the bottle that for a long time, I thought all lambs had to be raised that way.

I remember wading up and down the sunny crystal-clear waters of the irrigation ditches, just the right size for a little girl to play in.  The grassy edges hid me completely, making my own little world.  I could pick the morning-glory flowers of the bindweed and send them floating down the current, or use bits of wood for little boats.

I last saw the ranch many years later, when I took little sister Sally up to visit.  The big house was finally finished, and it was beautiful, but seemed so small compared to my old memories.  I missed the old shanty, but when I walked out back, I found Gramps had simply pulled it off and slid it down the road, entirely intact.  There everything was; the bookcase I spent hours at, the tiny kitchen . . . even the little “jeweled” belt hanging from a peg.  It had belonged to Uncle Jerry when he was small, and I had coveted it the whole time it hung there.  It was a strange experience; like visiting your childhood corked up in a bottle.

I wish now I had taken something, at least some books (or that belt!) but at the time it did not seem right.  It was as though . . . if I left everything there, some day I could come back and be that little girl again.

Only in dreams, now.


Posted July 31, 2014 by stablewoman in Uncategorized

6 responses to “Long, Long Ago

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  1. Thanks for sharing that, Roberta. What lovely memories, well described:-).

  2. Wonderful, wonderful writing. Even though I don’t remember it personally, at some point during the school year–I can’t remember the context, is but it’s semi-relevant–I tell the Gus the Goose story. When we study the Marshall Plan, also tell them that I distinctly remember Grandma Kelly saying “Clean your plate. People in Europe are starving.” Then I show them a film clip that shows children eating out of garbage cans and they get it. I also remember Gramps saying, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite” and then I’m sure my eyes were wide open, bright as headlights, for a good hour while I speculated as to what bedbugs were and exactly how large they might be.

  3. Wow, those are aome great memories. Your description was so clear I could see everything and feel as though I were there too.
    How wonderful our memories are that still give us that warmth and longing.
    Thank you for sharing some of your childhood with us!

  4. Beautiful post, Roberta! I love the picture of you! I can imagine you playing by or in the irrigation ditch so clearly…reminds me of Rebecca when she would disappear into the front yard of our house and be a “yard fairy” frolicking about. I had a nice crop of white peaches this year and hopefully next year I will make some ice cream and bring you some! Love, Elizabeth

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