Tag Archives: Ahwahnee

The Last Transition

From Ahawhnee we moved back to our great-aunt’s for the last time. It was just me and my sister.

What I remember most we had some friends. Where they came from and where they went I am unsure. But they would come to the property and play a game of hide and seek. We played it at night. It started off simple enough. But soon we learned how easy it was to hide in simple shadows. And to move in shadows.

Eventually we didn’t really hide so much as move around and try to avoid being caught. And we played it on much of the 13 acres. I have a clear memory of going down near the river. And my sister once encountered a pack of coyotes, which ran away.

But I still spent a good deal of time alone. This is when I took the long trip up the river and found the canyon. Maybe it wasn’t a canyon, but to us it was grand. On either side of the river was some high rocks. The river was narrow. And in some parts much deeper than near where we lived.

It was a period of transition. When I started school in Coarsegold I was popular. I hadn’t been back at the school since before my brother was born, in the second grade. Most of the students were new to me. Except the girl who broke my arm was still at the school.

Maybe I wasn’t popular. What does the word even mean? But I was the center of attention. At the time there was no difference in my mind. But looking back as an older and wiser person, there is a difference.

The other kids at school started talking me into doing embarrassing things for attention. Things I would rather no discuss in detail. But, I had no self-esteem. And I would do anything for the vague idea of acceptance or approval. Or just for attention good or bad. I wasn’t a very strong person. And I didn’t have much of a sense of myself, or my own self worth.

It was also the transition of puberty. Which created some touchy changes in my life.

Another memory from this time was of myself talking back to my great-aunt. She had told me something, I don’t even remember what she had said. But I wanted to feel like I had some power, and it was easy to be mean to her because I knew she wouldn’t respond.

At the time a TV show was popular. The show was Bosom Buddies. The theme song was defiant, and I wanted to be defiant so I told her:

“I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life”

This is when I discovered Madonna and became a fan. I would sometimes find a Walkman and listen to the radio. It was pop music. Music which my great-aunt felt was evil. She told a story of the devil going to church. Someone asked the devil, why are you here where we worship God. His reply was they were worshiping him with their music.

And I walked away. She never mentioned it, and she probably understood me more than I did myself at the time. But, it was immature to say the least.

But it is a hard time isn’t it, becoming a non-child. But you still have years before you become an adult. You aren’t even a teenager.

It is during this time I think I first really started to feel alone the most. Not just alone in the singular sense of the word. But alone in the sense of not being understood. Alone in the feeling of people not being aware of me. My struggles, my general being.

This was the last school I attended, aside from going to high school. So my school memories of the time probably over lap with the next chapter. The last move we made was the next house.

There was a girl named Pepper. Yeah, who names their kid Pepper. But I thought she was hot. I wanted to get to know Pepper better, and I wrote her a note and I put pepper in the note. She never responded. Once I picked her some wild flowers. Other kids laughed, and one later pulled some weeds out of the ground and gave them to her. These things feel bad at the time. I don’t know how she felt about me. But we never even became friends. There were no friends in school.

This was also the time period when I was not chosen for a team sport. In PE the two popular kids would be the team captains. They would then choose players one at a time until everyone was on a team. But this time the count was odd. Neither team wanted me. Then they both said I should be on the other team. So I left. These things feel really bad a the time.

Of course it is just school. And the paid goes away over time. We grow up and we learn to value ourselves. We learn to understand the kids are wrong.

There was a girl who gave me a flower one day. I don’t recall her name. It stayed in a vase by my bed for a long time. Then someone else threw it away one day.

This was a short transition. We moved to Hilda’s at the start of summer and moved to our own house during my sixth grade year. The exciting factor was it was a house we owned. Well Mother was making payments to the bank.


The Next House

The next house was in Ahwahnee. It was the fourth grade for me. And part of the fifth grade.

We were all in the house though, my sister, brother and Mother. This is the last time Grandpa ever visited us. Though I did see him a few more times before he died.

We rented the house from the neighbors. Mother said the woman was a foster parent just to get the money. One of the boys there was Johnny. He was about the same age as me and my sister. The three of us were friends.

This is the last house I saw Smokey. A cat I loved as a child. I have no memory of where or when I got him. On at least a couple moves I spent time upset and scared he wouldn’t make it home for the move. Moving from the house on Road 415 for example. I sat in the yard and called him and called him. If I didn’t cry, I felt like crying.

We don’t know what happened to Smokey.

The house was next to a field. We used to walk across the field and along a trail to the main road. There in the small town we would buy candy. There was a special place along the path. Just some rocks and trees. But for me and my sister it was a magical spot. Someplace cool, quiet and it felt hidden. It felt safe.

It was living in this house I was the closest to my sister. A lot of the time I felt so angry. I’m not sure why now. And to be honest I don’t know if at the time I knew. One time my sister said she hated it when me and Mother yelled. Said you couldn’t understand anything we said. I really thought about what she said and started working to control my temper.

Once I went to throw water at my sister in her room. A drop hit the bulb and it broke. My sister was mad and I felt bad. Of all the people in my life, my sister was the one I cared for more than any.

I did a lot of walking at this house. Like other places I spent a lot of time alone. Walking down dirt roads and ATV paths and thinking. Once I took my bike along a path, I thought it was a path. It went into the woods, and I had to leave my bike for a moment. My plan was to pick it up on the way back. However, I hit a road and didn’t go back the same way. I had mother help me find it later.

This is the house where she learned how to drive. My fourth grade teacher taught her how. Then sold her the car she learned to drive. For the first time we didn’t have to hitch-hike.

After she learned how to drive we took some trips. Once we tried to explore some dirt back roads. Another time we drove to a gate on Deadwood. Then got out and climbed to the top. It was just me and Mother. On the way back we missed a turn, made a wrong turn. We ended up in Coarsegold. A couple of miles away. we stopped at a man’s trailer. He cooked us popcorn with lard.

There are family moments I remember from this house. We played Monopoly. And some kind of game about picking up the most things from the living room floor. It was a mess.

Mother fell in love with the movie Flight of the Navigator. Woke us up in the middle of the night so we could watch it with her. This is a bit of a crazy memory. But it is also the kind of crazy memory I image more people have about their childhood and families. Crazy in an endearing way.

But this is the last time I remember Mother doing something social without us kids. Something adults need. Grandpa was our baby sitter. And not a good one. He sat outside my door and threaten to hit me with his cane if I came out. My bedroom had a door to the bathroom. And then into my sister’s room. We often used her window to leave the house. Silly grandpa.

One time we were discussing something. He told me to go argue with a post. My reply was, “I already am.”

Thinking about what a bitter and emotionless man he was makes me wonder about Mother’s own childhood.  I know he loved us. Sometimes he would talk about what he would do if he had a million dollars. But, even as a child it seemed pointless to talk about such things. My great-aunt though much more caring shared in some ways the lack of emotion. There are few memories of her being affectionate with us children.

She may have mothered us, but I don’t recall many hugs. There is a practice in Buddhism where you picture your parents as children. I go from thinking about my mother as a child. Living with her father and sisters. To thinking about her father, and my great-aunt as a children. Living in a large family, in a new land. They had recently moved from Russia. The Hoff family left Russia as communists took power. Family legend says on the last boat.

Wait, aren’t we German? Yes, German who moved to farm on the Volga river.

We are all wounded people. We give birth and raise wounded people. Though we try our best to heal.

This is the house were we met another family like ours. There will be more to say about them later.

The fourth grade in school was a hard time. Kids at school made fun of me. I never stood up for myself. In the fifth grade the name calling and hazing continued. At one point a teacher asked me to leave and then scolded the whole class. Kids were nicer to me afterwards.

But I was an awkward child. The only time I think I felt cool was once the boy next door tripped me during a game. This was after the teacher’s talk. Many of the boys from the class started to call him names. They were rather mean to him as he left school. And I felt bad, because I knew it was an accident. A part of myself wanted to say something. More of me wanted to savor the acceptance.

There was a big fire in the area once. Ashes hung like large snowflakes in the air. There was a student who was my friend. We would take our play cars to school and throw them at the wall. Of course they broke.  But it looked like real cars after a wreck. It was cool. I was angry.

The school had two main buildings. A gap between them was where we played dodgeball. In the fifth grade I started to feel more accepted than at any other school. Either before or after.

Then there was the girls. One girl, I don’t remember her name. It was my dream to go to her house. Or to take her on a walk and discover a mattress. But nothing ever happened between us. I never tried.

I could almost say I was happy at this house. Another memory is listening to the radio count down the hits. I was bouncing on my bed and singing along. These are the memories other people have of childhood right? I called the station once to request a song. Of course the song was playing at the time and I missed half of it.

“Give me a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’ma goin’ home
My baby just wrote me a letter”

In the fourth grade the Challenger exploded. We were watching it on the news. I went home and watched CNN on a little black and white TV for hours. The local station must have re-broadcasted the news network. I was picking it up from the antennae. It was the first time I felt like I was a part of a bigger world. And the first time I remember the thrill of following a news story as it unfolded.

Then we moved back to my great-aunt’s.

Time Out!

There is a place I forgot. A house I misplaced in time.

I am pretty sure we lived there after my great-aunt’s and before the house on 415. The house where Ben was born.

The three of us lived in the misplaced house. It was on the same dirt road we lived on when I was in the first grade. The road starts north of Ahwahnee. It runs east and ends north of Oakhurst. The first time we lived closer to Ahwahnee. This time we lived closer to Oakhurst.

If my memory of the timing is right. We didn’t live there long. The drive way had a steep hill. And at least once we had trouble because it got muddy.

What I remember most is the heat. We had to walk several miles to the closest paved road. I got sun burns on my shoulders, a second degree burn. My shoulder developed huge blisters.

It got so hot my sister and Mother took an ice bath to stay cool.

I also remember the house was a mess. One of Hilda’s friends came over and tried to help Mother clean. But it was no use. LaVonne would throw things in the trash. But Mother would take them out when she left.

Our houses were never clean. Or rather they were never neat. For some reason this place sticks out as being worse. Mother was pregnant with my brother for much of the time we lived in this house.

Another reason I am sure it was short stay was my lack of memories. As I got older I retained more and more memories. One of the ones from this place is a discussion about space. Someone said a new planet had been discovered. It was out past Pluto and called Planet X. This of course isn’t true. And I don’t recall believing it at the time.

The house had a porch. And one time me and my sister made a ramp. We said if someone had a wheel chair they could use it to get inside. Of course no one with a wheel chair ever visited us. No one ever visited us.

Ok, let me think about the timeline: Berkeley, Hilda’s, Yellow House, Hilda’s, Red House, Ahwahnee House, Hilda’s; 415 House; Fresno…

Yes, the place behind the pizza place is in there sometime. I am not sure when. The Oakhurst House felt like it wasn’t so close in time to the Ahwahnee house. Which makes me think it was after Fresno. But there was another house, which I thought was right after Fresno. The more I think about it. The more I believe we lived here after Fresno.

Second grade was in Coarsegold. Third Grade was in Fresno. I actually remember starting in Coarsegold, feeling nervous. If my memory is correct it was the beginning of the school year. So we had to have moved almost right from the Ahwahnee House to the Oakhurst House. Or we moved to the second house after Fresno.

Where was my brother during much of this. He must have been there, and just young enough for me not to remember.

Even in the next house. I don’t have many memories of him. But I know he was there.

Why put this all in here. Are you bored. Well, I am confused and there is a point about pieces of our lives and how we track them. Like I said before, it is a puzzle. You have to fit the pieces together and see if they work. Our memories are far from perfect. This may be more true for myself.

At any rate. It is getting to be time to reflect a little. I need to discuss who I was a little more. And who I was becoming. Tie some of the narrative together. Then we can move along.

Chapter 4

So Chapter 4 and I still am not in school. Is this going the be the slowest book ever?

We got some education in the years living with my great-aunt. First grade is when I started school. We had moved to Ahwahnee. Two miles down a dirt road. We lived with a rooster. And across from a nudist.

All day he sat and watched traffic on the road. He was friends with mother. Don’t ask, I don’t want to know. Sometimes he would give us a ride to the main road, or into town. But, I have memories of walking the two miles. At least once alone. There was a berry patch along the road. We would stop and pick berries.

The rooster attacked my sister once. Maybe this is why she didn’t want to live with us. Or maybe there were other reasons.

I remember more of what people told me about first grade. Other kids said I used to pee my pants in class. The school was a couple small buildings. I went to the Fourth grade and part of the fifth grade at the same school.

Math is something I remember. Not because it was hard. It was boring. Why go over and over the same numbers. But I did my homework. I cared about my education still.

Naturally there weren’t friends so far away from people. But I had my sister. One time we got in a dirt clog war. They burst like bombs when you throw them. Sometimes the dust is like smoke. We got pink eye.

We may not have lived at this house long. My memory of the time is so sparse. Memories of mother are even more so. The house was a mess. Life couldn’t have been easy for a single woman, alone, two kids. Not to mention living two miles from civilization with no car. We didn’t have a car until I was in the fourth grade.

Growing up mother would say she couldn’t afford new clothes because of us kids.

I know the next year, I was in the second grade at a new school. Living back in Coarsegold. Also we lived at my great aunt’s for a short time. This is when mother knew my little brother’s father.

Ahwahnee is a small town. Just a few buildings, a school, a bar and a post office. The town itself was about two miles down the paved road. Then two miles on the dirt road was our place. Why would someone think to live in such a place? With two kids? No car?

Whatever length of time we lived there, the next stop was my great aunt’s. We lived down in the trailer. My sister and I spent our time going to the river, often alone. There was a tractor on the property and small road to the river. Sometimes my great aunt’s friends gave us a tractor ride.

My sister once tried to get me to eat a puffball. Not something which seemed like a good idea at the time. The property now had a small eucalyptus grove. After the rain I would shake the trees. The scent in the air, the moisture as it fell from the leaves was wonderful.

This was the last time we lived in the trailer. To mother’s credit our housing improved as we grew. We started the second grade in a new house. But it will be a new chapter.

The area I grew up in is south of Yosemite. The core town is Oakhurst. North of which on highway 49 six miles was Ahwahnee. South of Oakhurst 11 miles on Highway 41 was Coarsegold. Students from all these towns went to the same high school.

The whole area was rural. Slightly racist. Conservative and religious country. The big event in Coarsegold was the rodeo. There was a lot of ranch land. Also many people worked in Fresno, an hour south on 41.

Taco Bell came to town while I was in high school. Soon after the first traffic signal. It was at the corner with the Talking Bear. A large plastic figure. When you pushed a button it spoke about bears. Of course all the real bears were gone.

Our family was never accepted in the community. Later a school secretary told our neighbors, “oh you live by the dump.” This isn’t the place to explore white flight. But the shoe fits. People didn’t understand us.

Maybe they felt like we children needed help. Sometimes they called CPS. Or Child Protective Services. Mother had a big job, with two and then three kids. Were we in danger? Not physic danger. We ate. We weren’t hit.

We did have friends. They were few. I can’t remember most names and faces. With one exception, they were not lasting.

We can view our lives through so many lenses. The people we know and knew. The places we are and were. The things we did and do. My life has been full of places and people and things. It feels a little like a drawer of mis-matched socks.