Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Nothing and Everything

A flashback from What Next, September 2015:

nothing everything

I was born in a Chicago suburb, surrounded by siblings and generations of family. We’d drive station wagons through gently sloped streets lined with maple, oak and elm trees year-round and lilac blossoms everywhere in the spring. Every weekend the entire family gathered at one or another’s home.

Family gatherings gradually changed after we all migrated to Phoenix. My grandparents and aunts settled over an hour’s drive away, my parents, siblings, and I on the opposite side of town. OlderBrother and I walked to school in a new, drier, hotter climate passing ocotillo, acacias, and towering oleander walls.

Discovering the areas surrounding our home gradually replaced weekly visits with family. For weeks we explored livestock pastures, orange groves and hay fields. Our favorite times were spent swinging from ropes tied to enormous trees over irrigation canals.

A week before I was to become an upperclassman at our grade school, we left my grandparents and aunts’ families behind. In two cars with trailers, our parents drove my five siblings and me across the dessert to southern California. Home became an apartment where there were more trees and a patio, but no yard.

Dad and Mother went to work immediately. Very used to caring for one another, my siblings and I took on the new climate, new society, a much faster pace and being strange, new kids in metropolitan schools.

Cool wasn’t about the weather anymore; you either were or you weren’t. In jeans, t-shirts and squaw boots, I wasn’t. My main concerns were hand washing laundry and getting dinner ready. When Mother and Dad were home together they usually argued. OlderBrother stopped being my pal and mostly worked on cars with friends. Still, we somehow got from day by day together. Some days were less together than others.

A few months later we moved into a house in a nicer suburb. Eventually OlderBrother discovered the bus lines to the beach, and went there often. The rest of us hoped to go with him some day.

Two years after coming to Los Angeles, one midweek day Mother pulled us from school and took us to Crystal Cove near Newport Beach.

The fresh ocean air lifted me from our life and for the first time in months I felt I could breathe. Tide pools, waves, kelp beds, sandpipers and sea gulls sent my senses and my imagination soaring. It was our last outing with Mother. Weeks later she left.

I couldn’t get to the shore often enough for my liking. But whenever I could, I would dig my feet deep in the sand as though that would keep me from spinning off the planet. The beach became my sanctuary.

I mostly came with nothing, only to gaze where the sky meets the ocean. Between that horizon and my feet I found everything I needed.

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.”  Psalm 34:6 (NLT)

 

Featured image courtesy dstiel at Pixabay

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Filed under Notes from the Apex

Nothing and Everything – Repost

Our internet service has been uncooperative, (go figure, I’d recently commented that it’s improved).  Today I’m resigned to sharing an early post from Blogging U and The Next Best Thing.

 

nothing everything

I was born in a Chicago suburb, surrounded by generations of family. We’d drive station wagons and family sedans along paved roads through gentle slopes lined with lilac blossoms in spring, and various maples, oaks and elms year-round. Every weekend the entire family gathered at one or another’s home.

Family gatherings gradually changed after we all moved to Phoenix. My grandparents and aunts settled a half-day’s drive away, my parents, siblings, and I into a square pink house. Brother and I started school in a dry, hotter climate walking by ocotillo, acacias, and towering oleander walls.

Our playgrounds gradually replaced weekly visits with family. For weeks we explored livestock pastures, citrus groves and our favorite toys were ropes tied to enormous, friendly trees which we climbed to swing across the canals.  Later we practiced lying about swimming in the precarious waters.

Late in the summer before I was to become an upperclassman at our grade school,  we left my grandparents and aunts’ families behind. In two cars with trailers, our parents drove my five siblings, our German Shepherd a box full of her 12 suckling pups and me across the dessert to southern California. Home became a three-bedroom apartment where there were more trees, but no yard. Dad and Mother both went to jobs immediately.

Very used to caring for one another, my siblings and I faced the new climate, society, a much faster pace and being strange, new kids in metropolitan schools. Brother and I entered junior high.

Cool wasn’t about the weather anymore; either you were or you weren’t. In jeans, t-shirts and gym shoes, my main concern was hand washing laundry and having dinner ready before bedtime. Brother became cool. He stopped being my pal and was mean sometimes. I was not cool. To him I became nothing. Still, we had four other siblings  and the dog that didn’t care about cool. We somehow got through our new life together, day by day, some days worse than others.

After an eternity of a few months we moved into a house in a much nicer suburb. Eventually Brother discovered the bus lines to the beach, and he went there often. Though I missed him, I appreciated his absences.

Two years after coming to Los Angeles, one midweek day Mother pulled us from school and took us to Crystal Cove near Newport Beach. The fresh ocean air lifted me from our life and for the first time in months I could breathe. Tide pools, waves, kelp beds, sandpipers and sea gulls sent my senses and my imagination soaring, changing everything.

Through the following years I didn’t get to the shore often enough for my liking. Whenever I could, I dug my feet deep into the sand as though that would keep me from spinning off the planet. The beach became my sanctuary and the God I knew as a kid in the dessert met me there.

Often enough I came with nothing, only to gaze where the sky meets the ocean. Between that horizon and my feet I found everything I needed.

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.”  Psalm 34:6 (NLT)

 

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Filed under Writing and Blogging

Why I Write

I began writing letters to my grandmother, my touchstone. That was when we drove graded roads through orange groves, pastures and cactus forests from Phoenix to Mesa. A long distance phone call on the only land line phone in the house was a costly event involving a telephone operator. Postage stamps cost less than a nickel. My parents moved us from a remote suburb of west Phoenix to Los Angeles. They called it a fresh start.

I learned as a young child that Grandmother saw right through a story to the truth. I mostly wrote fiction, so most of my writing never left my tablet. Fiction was nice. Outside of discussing the weather and describing the nearby landscapes, truth was rarely nice. I actually mailed an average of one letter to Grandmother each month.

I also wrote to my classmate Lanie about an exciting California lifestyle, most of which took place somewhere between books, black-and-white television, the drive-in movies and my imagination, all created from different hiding places in my parents’ house.

In writing I was somebody people liked. In print Grandmother didn’t notice a runny nose, crusty red eyelids, or dirt under the fingernails of a fat girl. From describing our new home far from Phoenix, I began to write to Grandmother about the lovely sunsets over the ocean (that I’d yet to see except on tv). I described the cars along Sunset Boulevard which was actually Leffingwell Road.

Grandmother always replied with her newsy updates. After some time she encouraged me to write more. I’d developed a knack for making my stories believable.

In my stories I was anyone and anything I wanted to be. I wrote about a smart, pretty, stylish, popular girl that blended into our neighborhood. In reality I could not see myself as anything but my mother’s stand-in cook, maid, and babysitter.

Early into adolescence I began to see myself as my characters and in 1966 the whole world began to change.

As my world grew with more characters, both genuine and those I imagined, I eventually realized many others felt entirely alone. Within that realization my awkward style became less gangly. A seasoned adult in Chicago, reading became my passion and writing became my touchstone. Ultimately, sharing with others and encouraging them along became my purpose.

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Filed under The World According to Roo