Roots. When I think of roots I think of putting down roots. The setting up of a place to live, putting in a garden, getting pets and giving them forever homes, planting trees and watching them grow through the years. It is notches on a door frame marking the growth of a child. A clothesline.
My grandparents were able to put down roots. They met, married, saved and bought land, built their own home, paying for supplies as they went along. In 1948 they started their house with help from family building the actual house. By 1949 they were finished, everything paid for. Over the years they added two rooms, remodeled two or three times including moving the kitchen into a new room and turning the old kitchen into a dining area. It sits on an acre and a half of land, covered with pecan trees my grandfather started from pecans he found. There are pear, loquat and peach trees. There is a a very old grape vine that winds around a pecan tree and now then will still give grapes. My Grandmother put in the rose bushes and flowered vines that are scattered about. She said to me that every time she had a fight with my Grandfather and felt bad, she would cheer herself up and go buy a plant to put in. I laughed when she told me that as I looked around and saw so many flowers.
I have always wanted what my Grandparents have. The sprawling yard, the simple and modest house, the job of maintaining trees and watching them grow through the years. They had chickens and at one time goats. I have eaten calabasita and had pumpkin that they grew in their backyard. They have worked hard but have also been lucky.
Several blocks away, where the San Felipe Springs runs, is a small bridge to drive over into the neighborhood called San Felipe. For years and years I loved crossing that bridge and seeing an old pinkish stucco house with plants in colorful pots on the patio that ran the width of the house. There was also a yellow wood framed house that sat next to it, always with sheets on the clothesline. There were cars parked off to the sides of the homes and the others that surrounded them in the neighborhood. No garages or carports, really, just cars that sat under the shade of large trees that, like the homes, looked as if they had been there for 80 years or more.
When I was a teenager and imagined myself grown up and living on my own, I pictured a cute little stucco house with a yard, shade trades, potted plants on my patio and clothesline off to the side. For some reason, given all the freedom of my imagination, I never pictured an aging mansion, or a two story home like the ones I liked so much on one of my favorite streets in town. I never created a new house or modern home. It still bothers me to this day why I wanted such a modest, tiny abode. Did I not dream big? I really can't remember if it was maybe a sign of no goals, or goals set very low or maybe what or how I thought of myself at the time. But I do remember how those little houses greeted me with such serene happiness. Something about them cheered me up when I'd see them. Something about them sent me dreaming of tomato gardens and lovely tin can planters, the beauty in things that age and fade under the sun. I was charmed by these homes and by the lives I imagined were being lived in them.
In 1998 a flood swept half that neighborhood away, the homes, the people in those homes and the lives they led were tragically lost overnight. The high water came from the San Felipe Springs in the middle of the night, no warning, some people never woke up. Those homes stood there for decades, rooted it seemed for decades to come. The entire time they were really existing precariously on a flood plain. The trees that surrounded the two homes remain.
Three summers ago I parked the truck and with August ventured into what was once the backyard of the pink stucco home because I spotted a fig tree. Other people were gathered around the huge tree picking the fruit. I clearly remember that I felt like I was trespassing. I remember feeling a sadness picking the fruit off a tree that once belonged to someone who must have suffered terribly or perished that night when nature turned on them. I would pause and look around. I saw was a sign that said something about FEMA and not being allowed to build on the land. At the base of the tree was a partially buried pile of old brick. I could hear the springs running. I recently visited the tree again. Still, sadness. I wondered, did they sit outside on the porch just to hear the spring flowing over rocks and through tall grasses and reeds? Did they enjoy the figs from their own backyard? Did they feel protected under the branches of the massive tree that had been there longer than my Grandmother could remember? They had put down roots that I could still feel under my own feet.