Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Young Child on Long Trips

I have two memories from a trip with my parents and grandparents when I was still very young.  I remember everybody looking up at something; I remember the sensation of standing still but moving and seeing water on the other side of a 'fence' and the breeze.  I remember being set on a chair at table along with the adults and expected to eat on my own.  And I did, but I had trouble with the full-size utensils and didn't know what to do with (perhaps) salami; I took the rind off the slice and put it in a bowl of jelly or jello—which was promptly removed from my reach.  My grandmother, an accurate source, when asked later told me that she had been afraid that I might fall overboard from the ferry and that we'd been visiting my grandfather's Petaluma siblings.  Above the ferry the Golden Gate Bridge was nearing completion.  But she didn't remember my doing anything wrong at table.
Later, in the year I started kindergarten, I came with them to see my uncle graduate from UC Berkeley.  Already too large to be held in the Greek theater, the ceremony was in the football stadium.  Like thousands of other children before and since, whose parents didn't go to football or baseball games, I dropped my program and couldn't retrieve it from under the seats.  The scene was vaster than anything I'd seen before.  We had breakfast at my uncle's rooming house (I don't think he belonged to a fraternity, but it may have been a dorm), which I remember because half a grapefruit, again, was something I'd never been offered to eat.  But he bought us blue and gold felt pennants and a sturdy souvenir megaphone, which I had for years after.
North Hollywood, where my father's oldest sister's family lived, was in the summer of 1939.  I remember my mother's bathing my brother, a few months old, in my aunt's kitchen sink.  I remember their having a telephone and my adolescent cousins' letting me listen to voices (the Operator, I suppose) coming through its receiver.  And the next morning, which must have been a Sunday, I remember my eldest cousin, M.E., sitting with me on the lawn, patiently reading the comic strips of the Sunday paper to a five-year-old who had never seen urban paper color comics before and was too young to read them for herself.  For which I adored this cousin for years to come.
It is not that I forgot other trips.  Those are all that we made, apart from going to the beaches or to the County Park for a picnic.  The live oaks had the low, horizontal branches characteristic of the species, and some were low enough to ride on.  It was a wonderful County Park with plenty of standing water faucets, stone-built barbecue pits, and stout wooden tables.  WPA?  Probably, or CCC.
So now I was ready to go to school.