Letter from home

January 20th, 2008

Because these are the days when we watch for the oranges to ripen, and I can once again see them about to burst.

Home was once a funny word, since it was rarely the place that she lived.

She had been born in California, the granddaughter of a big-shouldered Illinois Irishman who’d come to the golden brink and ended up in all ways empty-handed. She was one of three little granddaughters, all loved so true that none doubted she was grandpa’s favorite, or that his house was where they belonged.

At home with mom and dad was a prickly kind of place, where the air sometimes froze and the ground swayed and the safest place to be was tucked out of sight. You could find her there, or you might forget to look.

At grandpa’s was different. It was a little patch of parched ground at the end of the road called the Road to Grandpa’s, an hour or so up the way from their starter house in LA and long after the littlest one in the backseat asked, “Are we still in California?” Grandpa’s was a tidy four-room box of a white and yellow handmade house in an orange grove ocean with a mountain in the distance, a mountain with a name they all knew, because grandpa always called it by name, Torrey Mountain, like he called everything by name, the names he gave if there were none, to pet pigeons and doves and chickens and the rooster and duck and dogs, sometimes cats, her grandmother, her sisters and her, the one he called My Little Irisher.

They would tumble out of the wagon on these, which must have been weekly trips when she was young, and her parents were achingly young and the cord that connected them all was noose tight but not yet torn. Tumble into the dusty earth and the endless rows of oranges which she knew stretched on forever at least until the highway way far away which was where grandpa’s two-acre spread played out.

First, yes there were the oranges, very special oranges which would be the very Sunkist oranges that you saw advertised on TV, which must be irrigated on rare and significant days known as Irrigation Days which were serious from beginning to end and produced the most luscious grade of mud which they were allowed to slog and squish through calf-high in the game known as Grand Central Station, these little raggedy girls having no earthly idea what a grand or a central or a station might otherwise be.

First there were the oranges. And then, and then.


  1. I read this several times just for the pleasure. This sounds like the beginning of a book. Or perhaps I just want it to go on.

    Comment by Moanna — January 21, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  2. Nice.

    Comment by denise — January 21, 2008 @ 3:08 am

  3. I really loved your book and have been enjoying your blog too. I read pretty much every book there is on parenting (not only am I a parent but I’m working on a TV show about parenting…) and yours is head and shoulders above the rest. Thanks for the lovely writing.

    Comment by spielbee — January 21, 2008 @ 3:33 am

  4. i also read and reread it. what a lovely memory.

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — January 21, 2008 @ 3:47 am

  5. Calf-high mud, raggedy girls, luscious, and so vivid. And then, and then what?! Something I want to know.

    xo Jena

    Comment by Jena Strong — January 21, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  6. Tumble into the dusty earth and the endless rows of oranges…

    I want to play! This does sound like the beginning of a deliciously rich story.

    Comment by Shannon — January 21, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  7. ” . . . having no earthly idea what a grand or a central or a station might otherwise be.”

    I love that!

    Comment by Mama Zen — January 21, 2008 @ 8:29 pm

  8. Oranges and orange groves.
    How did I know this already?
    We are one and the same.
    love to you.

    Comment by bella — January 22, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

  9. Beautiful.

    Comment by Shelli — January 22, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month