On March 5th, 2014 we celebrated my daughters 7th birthday at Rosemary’s Creamery. I am remiss to think how many times I have ordered the ‘black and tan’ sundae, a mountain of hot fudge and caramel on toasted almond ice cream. Every birthday I feel like I am six years old again dueling spoons with my twin sister and scrapping globs from poorly designed glass boats that make the entire process sticky and fun.
On this day, as we waited for the orders to arrive my grandmother showed me a photo of an empty dirt lot. I had no idea what I was looking at until she remarked that she was upset that they bulldozed the house. Only later would she realize that I was completely unaware that the house was gone. Until that moment it was still where it had always been. On a busy street with commercial buildings, the yard eager for spring, the bougainvillea blooming early and obstructing the front doorway and the rose bushes softening the cold metal gate that surrounded the perimeter.
Growing Up Homeless
I lived so many places growing up I actually never felt like I had a “home.” I learned recently that I lived in Texas during many formative years but not long enough to recall. When we returned to Bakersfield and left my grandparents house, we moved around. I could not tell you the address, or color or any details about those places. They were just places:
the house with the teal laundry room
the room on Niles Street
there house across from the elementary school
the duplex off of Ming
the other duplex off of Ming
the house on Columbus
the house by the 58 Freeway
There was one place that I have always considered my sanctuary, the little house on East California—known by my generation as “Honey’s House.” Until recently, I thought it was only the beautiful women who lived within those walls that made it so special. But Honey passed away over a decade ago and I still drive out of my way to visit this place just too see the structure and feel renewed.
The Yellow Phone
If I could stop that bulldozer and save one artifact it would be the yellow rotary phone that lived on the kitchen wall. I once asked my aunt why we did not have a cordless phone and she aimed fierce ojitos at me as she recalled the audacity of a telephone company worker who had once made the offer to replace her “old” banana colored phone. She never said what happen to that idiot man and I came to realize her loyalty to our phone was founded. As a teen I spent hours lying on the green linoleum floor that slanted towards the kitchens backdoor talking on that phone. In the tiny makeshift kitchen that forgot it was once a porch. Even now, I can see my great-great-great aunt honey perched on her kitchen stool and chatting away.
I am the last and 5th generation that lived in that same little house with my great-great-great aunt Honey in 1998. My cousin Lisa and several of her fury friends lived there in the early 90’s. My grandmother Arlene and Great-Uncle Carl shared the home with their Grandparents and Aunt in the 50’s. My grandparents, Ted and Arlene Jiron were married in that house by Judge Noriega in 1961. The true history of the house on East California Avenue could span several novels. Too young to know everything I am old enough to understand how the foundation of this tiny building supported our enormous family as it grew.
The House on East California
They say you can find anything on the internet, tonight I used google earth to see the house one more time.
Any relatives attending the Easter picnic, I would love to see your photos and scan them for us all to share our memories of this special place.