When Ben was born, he had health problems. Not the least of which was his eyes. He was born with glaucoma. More common in older adults. He had a congenital version.
We moved to Fresno. Me, mother and Ben. It was a short move. But my sister only lived with us part of the time.
Fresno was the big city. I was still a country boy. In the five months we lived in Fresno, at five different time someone robbed our house. I lost several bikes. One off the front porch. Mother knew someone was stealing it because she saw the orange flag move through the window.
Someone even robbed the elderly lady who lived next door. Outside of my family she is the only person I remember. Her and Mother were friends.
She smoked a lot. Stayed up late watching television. Mother said being older she needed less sleep.
When not at home I wandered. Just like in the country. I took long walks, for miles. Alone on city streets, at least a couple times after dark.
But in Fresno is when my memories become clearer. At school I was one of the few white children. And had no friends. I spent my recess walking a line in the playground. A line painted in a spiral. When you got to the middle it led back out again. There was a round one and a square one. I walked these for hours. The other kids played marbles.
Two blocks from our house was a small market. We would buy candy there sometimes. Our favorite show was The Dukes of Hazard. I recall watching the show, and wanting to get candy from the store. Once I ran the two blocks and back during a commercial break.
When my sister was there we explored together. For a short period we had skateboards. Someone had given them to us for Christmas. Much to Mother’s dismay. We never rode them standing up. But until they disappeared we did have fun.
One day we went out and found a grape fruit. We were watching traffic drive by and thought it was a good idea to throw it at a car. We hit a car. Which stopped. The angry lady asked us where we lived. We were blocks from our house. We pointed the wrong direction. But her question was useless. She seemed to understand, and left with a huff.
We lived off Tulare. It was one of the streets we walked on a great deal. Once I walked downtown and found a fountain with its bottom covered in change. I fished some of it out. But in the end I didn’t keep any.
I followed Tulare the other way all to where it ended at Clovis Ave. Mother knew I spent much of my time wandering town. When I got a bike I would ride my bike around. I liked to ride in alleyways. A practice Mother tried to discourage. And I did once hit a car because I was riding in an alley and didn’t see it until too late. I fell of my bike, but the driver wasn’t upset. I wasn’t hurt.
I guess Mother had other concerns. My brother’s health was no doubt a stressful issue. Lost in my own world. There isn’t much in my memory of what happened to my brother, to Mother or even my sister.
In almost all my memories I am alone. The one I have with Mother was riding bikes. We went for a ride. I remember actually riding in traffic and it was so fun. A touch empowering. If not dangerous because it was getting dark.
I lived in Fresno for 5 months. It was more of a long visit. The city didn’t change who I was or who I was becoming. Growing up not far from Fresno, I had been there before. We used to hitch-hike with Mother from Coarsegold to Fresno. There was a gas station where we would buy frozen drinks and push-up ice creams in Fresno. We would stop before walking out to the highway to hitch-hike.
Fresno was much smaller in those days.
Even when I lived there it was bigger. The state put in a new freeway. It used to stress Hilda out to drive on. One of her brothers lived south of Fresno. Where he had a farm, I believe his name was David. We visited a couple times. Once we helped him pick grapes. Well as much as small children can.
David would not sell grapes to the wine companies. He also had a walnut tree in his yard. There is little I recall about him and his house. He and his wife were friendly. They had small yappy dogs.
Fresno wasn’t a place I enjoyed. Saying I didn’t like it would be strong. I simply didn’t care enough not to like the place. At this point in my life I had learned how to accept what was in my world. I felt alone when school started. But I adjusted, and didn’t have friends but was social.
For a short while grandpa lived with us. Again my memories of him are his being bitter. Locking a door and I didn’t even know it could lock. Maybe he had a rough life to be so hard. But I never knew him. I know Mother tried to be loving to him.
My grandfather and great-aunt were German. Family came over on the boat from Russia. They fit the emotionless image many of have Germans.
Mother has sisters. But I never saw them as a child. My first memory of them isn’t until I was an adult.
The crime and the city grew to be too much for Mother, and we moved after five months back to the mountains. Not Coarsegold, but the same area. To this day I still don’t feel comfortable in Fresno. Even much larger cities like New York seem friendlier. But it is just my impression.
Thinking back I don’t know how we made all these moves. We had no car. Mother didn’t learn how to drive until I was in the Fourth grade. Someone must of helped us. But who and why?
In the next chapter I need to take a step back.