One fine day a family moved into the house next door to Jimmy’s that had been vacated by the family of the younger John. It wasn’t exactly a normal family. There was a mother, son and daughter but no father. I found out this was the result of a divorce. The new boy of the neighborhood was outgoing and popular. His name was Mike Holly.
He had an air of confidence in everything he did. Although he was popular with Jimmy, myself and my brothers he was a public school boy who soon became friends with Keith, the boy who lived across the street from Jimmy. Keith was the boy who Jimmy said was ba-a-a-ad.
At first there was the sheer pleasure of meeting Mike Holly. Besides the fact that he was very likeable it was exciting that he went to one of the public junior high schools that was legendary among the Catholic school boys for being a very dangerous school. The boys at my school would have debates as to whether Wakefield or Utterback was the toughest of the schools. Mike went to Wakefield.
Mike once said something to me of great interest. He said that the previous year he had lived with his father. He said his father was Mexican. His father bought him two pairs of jeans and a package of white, cotton undershirts for clothes to wear that year. He said he was the most unpopular boy in school that year. The next year he lived with his mother and everything changed. This was something new to me. In Catholic school we wore uniforms. Clothes was not an issue.
Mike often went to dances for junior high school kids at the YMCA. In Catholic school boys and girls were often separated and there was no such thing as dances. I started to get glimpses of Mike’s younger sister. She had short, blonde hair and was very cute. I wondered why if Mike’s father was Mexican that he had an Anglo last name. I assumed this had something to do with his mother and father being divorced.
It wasn’t long before I met Keith, the bad boy from across the street. Jimmy told me that he cussed a lot and so did his father. Jimmy said his father got drunk a lot. Keith’s family, also, kept a German shepherd who barked viciously from behind the low, chain link fence in their front yard. All this contributed to the general notoriety of Keith’s family.
Keith was a freckle faced kid who was just a little pudgy. He grinned and laughed a lot. He had a younger sister with long, thick, red hair. Even though I didn’t approve of Keith’s cussing we got along well. I think I liked his sense of adventure.
Mike Holly continued to gain in popularity. I remember one day visiting with him in his front yard. Although his yard was dirt and a few tufts of dry grass it was all underneath the shade of lines of trees, each of which was thick with dark leaves. We knew there was no man in his house and realized that his mother was a divorcee struggling to support her family. It was cool and a little dark under the shade of these trees as we sat in lawn chairs in front of his house. Mike confided with me that his mother had told him that he should hang out with me and my older brother, Daniel, rather than the other boys in the neighborhood because we were good boys from a good family and that the other boys were sort of rough.
This sort of made me feel happy because Mike was very popular and popularity seemed to be the name of the game at the time. Becoming close friends with him would have enhanced our image on McArthur Street. I felt however that Mike was really saying that goody two shoes guys like us were less interesting and exciting than bad boys like Keith and that he was prepared to spend his time more with Keith.
During the course of the conversation while I was relating a past experience I felt it necessary to spell out a swear word because I wasn’t actually allowed to say the swear word. Mike admonished me because we were in front of the windows of his home. He felt that his mother might overhear. I said that I was only spelling it out, not saying it. He said it didn’t matter. His mother thought it was just as bad to spell it as say it. This I found a little odd because once Mike had shown me a message pad with a caricature of a topless waitress holding one of her breasts and underneath was a caption that read, “We also serve these”. He said it came from the place where his mother worked. I wondered why if his mother worked at a topless bar she would be so strict about swearing but I figured she was doing what she had to as a result of the divorce to support her family. That didn’t mean that she didn’t want to raise her children decently.
I had been becoming nearsighted and I finally got a pair of glasses. I chose a style of horn rimmed glasses with frames that were dark gray on top and clear on the bottom because Jimmy had a pair that were similar but brown on top. He rarely wore them. He was very vain and not so nearsighted as I was. I needed my glasses. I had a hard time playing baseball without them. I never knew where the ball was because I couldn’t see where it went. Once at school we had been playing baseball in the dirt field at lunchtime and I hit the ball straight and far into left field. I ran around the bases all the way to third but when I looked around to see where the ball was I couldn’t see where it was. Some boys were shouting at me to stay and some were shouting at me to run for home. I couldn’t see which boys were telling me to stay or run and which ones were on my team. I decided to be safe and stay. In school the boys made a big deal that I had hit a triple off of Brown who was considered to be a good pitcher. They said I could have had a grand slam if I had ran for home. I explained that I couldn’t see where the ball was and wasn’t sure who was telling me to stay and who was telling me to run. For awhile I wasn’t one of the last or almost last to be picked for one of the teams. Later when they saw I couldn’t always hit that well I went back to being one of the last picked.
What a shock it was when I wore those new glasses! Suddenly I could see clearly. No more squinting to read the chalkboard at school. The world now was so sharply defined and fully of clarity as I had never known. What a change from the dim view I had before!
One day I visited in Jimmy’s house with my new glasses. There was the dingy living room with the brown yellow, cigarette smoke stains on the ceiling, the carpet that needed vacuuming and picking up. I then was alone with Jimmy’s mother in the kitchen. She was asking me how I liked my new glasses. I was trying to communicate to her the amazing difference in perception when I said, “I can see every grain of dirt on the floor!” She said, “Well, gee, thanks a lot!” I tried to apologize. I didn’t mean it the way she thought it sounded. It was something I had noticed when looking at her kitchen floor that had seemed amazing to me. I felt bad but she didn’t really seem to be upset.
Later I thought how different Jimmy’s house was from ours. I could picture his mother in her shorts with laundry baskets on the couch, folding clothes in the middle of the room filled with debris that needed picking up. It was a feeling of disorder.
Perhaps it was the talisman but I took my savings and signed up to join the merchant marines. Soon I would be leaving everything that was familiar behind. People said I was still a young man so it was a good thing to see the world. I wrote a letter to my mother who was in the land bound town I grew up in, the place I left because I couldn’t stand the thought of always wondering what was over the next hill. This thought had vanished when I found the open sea stretching out before my eyes.
Before I was to leave I went back to find the curio shop where I had found the talisman. It wasn’t there. I traced my exact steps from the pier that day when I had encountered the little shop with the beautiful, oriental lady. I knew these little lanes along the waterfront by heart. I tried to find the corner I turned but only found the same familiar lanes and shops. There was no oriental curio shop. There was no vacant shop in its place. It was as if I had imagined it or dreamed it but the talisman was in my possession. I had it in my inner coat pocket. I felt delirious. Had I been lost? I wandered farther in surrounding areas but these places, also familiar to me, did not make sense with the memory I had of that day when I found the shop, the lady and the talisman.
With the merchant marines I traveled the world over and over. I realized the dream of mine to visit the South Seas and the Orient. This was only after many a cold journey in Northern waters to places like Finland and Sweden. I enjoyed England, France and the Mediterranean. My first storm at sea was the most incredible display of the power of Nature, beyond my imagination.
When I finally was bound to the South Seas of the Pacific and the Orient beyond I was overjoyed at the leaping dolphins in the sparkling blue waters. I was amazed by the flying fish skimming over the waves amid bright reflections. There were the hot, summer nights so balmy with the iridescent glowing spots of mysterious night fish. I felt in a wonderland.
And then there was the Orient. I found myself wandering down streets and narrow lanes in Hong Kong and Shanghai. These were places I had heard of and read about and I was there. It was like hundreds of Oriental curio shops. I was surrounded by them. Mysterious Oriental men, mysterious Oriental women and children. The children looked intently at me as I went walking by with mysterious little smiles on their upturned faces. When I went to sleep at night I thought of the dream I had when I first acquired the talisman in which I felt I was lost in a foreign land and could not find my way back. I did not however feel anxious about it as I had when I dreamed it. I was living my dream and everything was as it should be. I knew I would be able to find my way home or at least I thought I was sure of that.
I tried to stay in the Orient for as long as I could but my contract with the shipping company that had brought me there required for me to continue on to India and Africa. In fact I was to circumvent the globe returning to the cold Atlantic and ending my journey on the east coast of America.
From there I spent time traveling and living in parts of America I had not known before. I had many adventures and fulfilled a dream of visiting the East coast and learning of it. However since the only way I could make my living was as a sailor I had to find a ship that needed a hired hand. Soon I was on my way to parts unknown. From Norwegian fjords to tropical atolls, from cosmopolitan cities to farming communities I satisfied my curiosities about the world and the people in it.
Everywhere I traveled I met the most beautiful and interesting women. Sadness came at last when I thought how none of my love interests stayed in my life. I wrote many romantic letters. I gave significant gifts. I had happy memories but in the end they all turned bittersweet. The more I loved a woman, the more fleeting she became. When I thought of all the possessions I had lost along the way in my travels curiously the talisman had always remained.
I swear I could feel my heart in my chest sinking and my mind became heavy as a weight. “Aye, and we are adrift, matey”, I heard the old sailor say. I looked to my right where I heard the voice coming from. The old salt looked at me thoughtfully. “First we were driven off course. Now we are drifting off course but perhaps the captain at least knows where we are”, he said. “Did it matter if we know where we are if we can’t get back on course?” I thought as I turned full circle to look all around me. The ocean was so still that I felt I could see a hundred miles in every direction but all there was, was open sea.
Days went by. We were in tropical waters. It was hot and humid. The sailors took off their shirts. We were on rations of water and food. When we looked up at the sails there was not even the slightest of breezes to move them. There were no sea birds, no dolphins or fish leaping out of the water. Why?
At night when it was not as hot a sailor broke out a concertina and began to play music. He sang sailor’s songs. Other sailors sang along. Some danced. They told stories and laughed. The captain had allowed a ration of rum for all. The sailors made me smile. They joked about being in the doldrums. One sailor said, “Aye, and I’ve been in the doldrums before but only because I was on dry land for too long!” The crew gave a hearty laugh. I laughed, too. It sent a feeling of relief through my body. The rum was a helper.
I slept well that night but awoke feeling bad. It was not because of the rum. My soul was burdened by a weight of darkness in my being. I went out on the deck in the brightness and heat of the sun. Where was I? Our small, fragile vessel was in a nightmare landscape of yellow, brown and green seaweed! I looked at the sails, no wind, not even a breeze! The hot sun beat down on my enfeebled mind. I almost experienced vertigo as if I would lose my balance. “Aye, and we are in the Sargasso Sea”, said the old sailor.
All of the old, sea stories I had heard all my life about this accursed place came back to me. Would we all die of hunger and thirst here? I looked about at the motley crew. Their faces were grim. A burly sailor with a black beard and shaggy, black hair said, “All we can do is pray.” My mind went into a state that bordered on insanity. I thought back to the beginning of the voyage. Could I have made a decision to not get on board this ship? Such thoughts were futile I knew.
The next few days were a nightmare that never seemed to end. The sickening, horrible seaweed kept getting thicker as our once proud, ocean vessel drifted with no wind. There were pieces of old cargo and parts of old ships like small islands of rotting junk covered with seaweed surrounding us. We were getting deeper into the Sargasso Sea. Everything I had heard about this cursed place was true. Mentally I had descended into pure hell. Would we become just more of the flotsam and jetsam of the sea, rotting under green graves of seaweed? The sun in the sky was like a cruel, all knowing eye looking down on us.
One dark night we were all on deck. It was humid and very warm but not sweltering hot as in the daytime. Then a very young sailor shouted, “There’s a ship!” Without thinking with words my immediate feeling was that this made no sense. The sailors started stirring. Some stood up and walked over to the starboard side of the ship where the young man was looking out to sea. It seemed that the young sailor was looking intently at something. My curiosity was aroused. Another sailor said, “I see it!” Another said, “Aye, and so do I”. How was it possible? Was there another miserable crew of sailors like ourselves adrift in this abysmal place?
I walked over to the side of the ship and looked in the same direction as the others. There was something in the distance that shone pale as if in the moonlight but there was no moonlight. There was no moon. It started to get bigger on the horizon as if it was moving towards us. I remembered that there are fish in tropical waters that glow in the dark but the sailors had said that it was a ship. It was a ship! We all stood in wonder, frozen on the spot and waiting as the spectral ship in the darkness seemed to keep approaching us.
Then it came closer. It was in full sail as if a strong wind was driving it but there was no wind! No one spoke a word. I looked at the faces of the superstitious sailors around me with their wide open eyes, some with jaws clenched and some with jaws dropped.
The ship came closer. There was the sound of a howling wind. We saw that the sails of the ship were in tatters streaming forward with the wind and yet there was no wind. It was a ghost ship! My hair stood on end!
The ghastly, black ship with its flags and torn sails driven by a wind we could not feel started to pull alongside our ship. I looked at the sailors. Most were frozen with fear and could not move. Then there was the strange sound of music and sea chanteys. Then there was the sound of chains and moaning. There were screams. The ghost ship came up right along the side of our own vessel. The sound of chains and moaning grew louder. No one could be seen on board the ghost ship. It glowed pale and ghastly as if there was a moon with an eerie light of its own.
The ghost ship was passing slowly alongside of us now and a chill hit me that went straight through to my bones. I started to shiver. The burly sailor with the black hair and beard fell to his knees grasping at the beads of his rosary to pray. He looked up at the sky as if to ask God, “Why?” The old sailor’s teeth began to chatter uncontrollably making a horrible racket. Then the young sailor ran to the port side of the ship and jumped. As the ghost ship slowly passed our own fragile, little vessel and the sounds of chains and moaning gradually subsided none of us could even move.
The ghost ship had passed. We started to take deep breaths. Then we thought of the young sailor who was still just a lad. We ran over to the side of the ship. We shone lanterns all around the dark sea below us. There was seaweed everywhere. The Sargasso Sea had taken him.
The next days were misery. No one really wanted to talk about the ghost ship. We had all seen it. The merciless sun beat down upon us in the day. We were on starvation rations. The landscape around us was nightmarish.
One day I was lying on my back on the deck in a patch of shade, trying to conserve my energy. I did not want to die of starvation or dehydration. I opened my eyes a little and looked straight up. I thought I saw the flag at the top of the highest mast of our ship move. Was it my imagination? I kept looking at the flag. It moved again. My eyes were now fully open. I just kept lying there as if in a dream. The flag moved again. It started fluttering a little. I stood up still looking up at the flag. The other sailors around me noticed. They started looking up at the flag with me. The flag moved again. All of the sailors now were looking at the flag silently. The flag started fluttering some more. Then it fluttered even more. There was a breeze! Some of the highest sails appeared to move just a little. All eyes were above. The sails started to move some more. It was as if we were all frozen, afraid if we moved or said anything we would destroy the magic. The sails started to move more and the flags all started moving. The topmost flag started fluttering in the breeze and didn’t stop. All the sails were moving. The sails were starting to fill up with wind! We looked up at the helm of the ship. The captain was there at the wheel. He had a confidence and pride that we had never seen before. The ship was moving! It creaked and it moaned but it was not like the creaking and moaning of the ghost ship!
The first mate came on deck to assure us that the captain and the navigator had been keeping track of exactly where we were and would steer us on the right course. Some expressed concern about the obstacles of flotsam, jetsam and seaweed that surrounded us. The first mate said that those obstacles were taken into consideration. We were truly glad that we even had a chance since sailing at sea always involves risk. Only the use of skill keeps a man alive in the vastness of the awesome power of nature.
Much to our amazement, after negotiating some tricky turns to avoid being stuck in the seaweed of the Sargasso Sea, there appeared more open spaces in the water. It wasn’t long before we saw the open sea ahead of us and a clear path to reach it. We must have drifted through the hell of the Sargasso Sea and reached the other side.
We reached the open sea! The wind was with us and apparently the gods were now on our side! The sails were full as we were swept out to sea! The captain at the helm with the first and second mates and navigator around him looked proud but at the same time they looked like men who had been humbled. The sailors cheered!
It wasn’t long before the ship was sailing along at a good speed over bright, ocean swells with dolphins leaping about. A sign of good luck! Spirits were bright. That night the sailors celebrated with extra rations and a good ration of rum. There was music and singing of sea chanteys. The crew danced with men locking arms and dancing around in circles until they grew dizzy. This made everyone laugh!
And so the days continued at sea. It was a paradise. The sailors caught the best fish at sea. They cooked the fish on deck. It was a feast and a celebration of life.
Then the captain made an announcement. We were on course and soon would be reaching the Orient. Never before had the man in the crow’s nest with his telescope seemed so important. When he yelled, “Land, Ho!” the cheers of the grateful sailors went up to the heavens. Soon all of us saw land. We sailed into the harbor. It was a successful voyage. We delivered the goods and brought home valuable trading commodities from the Orient to Europe.
Those of us who were on this voyage continued our careers as merchant marines. We went our separate ways. We traveled all over the world. We had many adventures. I was fortunate to travel to the Orient many times. I was able to travel to the New World of the Americas.
Sometimes when I came into a seaport whether it was in my own home country or in a foreign place I would be in a restaurant or tavern that sailors haunt. I would sometimes be sitting by myself overhearing other sailors’ conversations. I overheard some sailors talking about the story of the ghost ship. Apparently some of the sailors who were on the same trip with me had told the story and it had gotten around. The sailors in the restaurants and taverns would discuss about whether they thought the story was true or not. The consensus was that it was just another sailor’s story.
I never told anyone this story because I knew that no one would believe me. As I make the rounds, traveling all over the world and meet one of the crew members who was on that fateful trip we look into each other’s eyes. We know we share a secret of something that happened that no one would believe. How do we explain about the young sailor who jumped overboard if anyone should ever ask us? In the end I guess it is just another sailor’s story. Wherever I go in all the travels of my life I am restless and can’t seem to settle down but the memory of the ghost ship rests firmly in my mind and cannot be taken away.
“All evil seems to arise from the desire to dominate others. Most men in our society are taught from a very early age to try to dominate. It isn’t something that they think about consciously. It operates at a subconscious level. They are taught by the adults around them and their peers. Someone dominates them and they in turn try to dominate others. They do it without even realizing it and they do it without even thinking about why. It is without question. In their conscious awareness they may aspire to grandiose ideals but their actions speak for what really motivates them from a subconscious level.” ― Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez, The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry
Most sold book January 2020 #78 Meistbestellte Bücher im Januar 2020 #78 The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetryhttps://diebuchsuche.at/mb.php
Most found books in December 2019
Meistgefundene Bücher im Dezember 2019 #14Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez: The Spider Lady and Other Short Storiesand Poetry, EAN bzw. ISBN: 9781543957082, 3120 mal gefunden, 4 mal bestellt, neu um € 7,97 … 30,10, gebraucht um € 11,58 … 86,75 https://diebuchsuche.de/mg.php
From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry
by Mark Alberto Yoder Nuñez
There were omens, I suppose, that superstitious sailors should have been attentive to when preparing for a voyage. The feeling was so good at the time that all of us, ebullient at the prospect of the venture, just ignored the usual attention to superstition.
And so we set sail, fully confident that the captain and navigator knew their business. Instead of seagulls there were crows, cawing incessantly. A thought crossed my mind that I would see an albatross. I put the silly thought out of my mind.
We were confident and we had a great sailing ship. We set sail in northern waters but it was the beginning of summer. We were bound with manufactured goods to trade for exotic items in the Orient. The huge and awesome Ocean engulfed and surrounded us as usual. However the chill, ocean air soon let go after only a week at sea and it became warmer.
One night with the light of a full moon illuminating the deck I saw the albatross circling and even hovering in the sky. I knew I would keep this to myself but upon turning to my right I saw an aging sailor. As my eyes fell upon his grizzled face in the semi-darkness he said, “Aye! And it is an omen!”
Since we were out at sea there was nothing I could do. In fact as we got more into tropical waters the happiness of the crew grew by measures but there were no dolphins leaping from the water. I felt a sense of foreboding.
As one of the days at sea started to approach twilight after a fiery red sunset great, storm clouds grew in the sky. Their grey, blue colors and increasing darkness seemed unusually powerful. The sailors prepared for the storm. Soon the falling of the storm and onset of night completely surrounded us with darkness. The captain, first mate and second mate took turns at the helm. They turned the wheel of the vessel to keep the ship aimed directly into the huge, ocean waves so the ship would stay afloat. The huge, ocean swells crashed against the bow with white water spraying but the skill of keeping the vessel turned toward the oncoming swells kept the ship from being pushed over from the side and capsizing. The storm was more fierce than any veteran sailor among us could remember. And so we were to weather the darkest of nights. Yet there was confidence among this experienced crew.
As desperate as the night was the early grey of morning created hope. There was still a storm but it had eased and it was not nearly so violent. The officers of the ship and even a senior crew member manned the helm with confidence although their alertness could still not waiver. Our survival depended upon it. The crew members looked to the man at the wheel with trust.
In the late afternoon the darkness descended upon us again. The masts bare against the ominous sky with sails furled. The wind howled. The vessel with the tiny lives of men on it creaked, cracked and moaned. It was a voice that spoke to the innermost feelings of my heart. My conscious mind reeled. The night descended into a darkness as I had never known. It was the ultimate humility to fall to sleep in a state of exhaustion not knowing who would live or die or if any of us would survive at all.
I awoke knowing that the water was still rough but the worst danger was over, at least if we were not hit with another such atrocious storm. My logical mind thought that the time of year was wrong for such incredible storms and we had set sail at the correct time of year. The other side of my mind acknowledged that every sailor knows the unpredictability of the sea.
I instinctively went out on deck to see what the true story was. It was a miserable day of wet spray, rain, wind and grey clouds but the only danger was that a careless sailor might be washed overboard. There was none that was careless among us so this was not a concern. The night was similar with officers and sailors on alert.
Finally a dawn broke when it felt that the danger was over. The sea was more as what we had expected it to be and periodic rays of sunshine broke through. The next day pale blue sky was contrasted by shreds of dark clouds fleeing like phantoms in the speeding winds of the upper sky. The white caps abated but the rumor was that our tiny, fragile, ocean vessel had been pushed far off course by forces much greater than ourselves.
At last we were able to hoist a few main sails. In spite of the still lurking clouds, large swells and drizzles of rain it was time to get back on course. It would still be hard to find our position on the globe until we could see the stars at night. I went to sleep that night feeling confident that the navigator and captain would find our location and we would be able to be on course again. The ship made a loud, creaking sound. “Curious”, I thought. The wind seemed to let out a moan.
When I awoke I saw bright sunlight through the portholes. I went out on deck to see blue skies and feel warmth from the sun. I took a deep breath of fresh, sea air. I looked about. “Something is wrong”, I thought. I looked up at the helm. The captain and navigator were talking. Their faces were grim. “What could be the problem?”
I looked about. The ocean was as still as I had ever seen it in my entire life. I looked up at the sails. There was no wind. We were adrift.
Not long after becoming acquainted with Jimmy’s family John’s family next door to them moved away. The house was vacant for a time. One day Jimmy asked me to come along with him, his mother and younger brothers to visit with John. Apparently John’s family had bought a brand new house. Our neighborhood was that of very simple tract homes that appeared to have been built in the early fifties. John’s new home was sixties style, fancier and brand new. The tract of homes was even built on a hill and not on flat land. He lived at the end of a curving cul-de-sac. The home was so new that the land around it was dirt. There was no landscaping yet. We were taken on a tour of the new, fancy house.
This was only the second time in my life I ever saw the younger John. I remembered how cruelly Jimmy had treated him at the last meeting. Much to my surprise Jimmy now treated John with the utmost respect and friendliness. Something had suddenly changed. He seemed to treat me with disdain as if since we had been seeing each other regularly the familiarity had turned to disrespect and contempt. Very quickly he and John disappeared around a corner leaving me alone, alone outside a brand new house that seemed barren with no landscaping. All I could do was wait patiently until Jimmy’s family decided to leave. I wasn’t in a good humor on the drive back. I was quiet. I couldn’t wait until we arrived so I could walk back home.
Our yard was not perfect. It wasn’t like the Miller’s who were a retired couple across the street whose lawn was perfectly green and always cut and trimmed perfectly with its perfect flower beds. It was weedless all the time. Our lawn was not dry but was never completely green. There were always some weeds that needed to be pulled. At some point my father taught all of his three sons to care for the yard but left it up to us to do so. There was no pressure. I think I took up most of the responsibility myself but try as I might I could never make the yard look perfect. I watered in the evening, pulled weeds, mowed and edged the lawn and swept the walks. My father collected a lot of nice rocks and cemented them at intervals on top of the low wall that bordered our yard. Ours was a corner house and even though the corner of our front yard was rounded and not a sharp corner the neighborhood boys would cut across our yard for a shortcut. Sometimes some of them would push and pull on the rocks until they pulled them out. They seemed to want to do these things as a sign of disrespect and rebellion against authority. I had no idea why. I finally had to confront some of these boys and tell them they couldn’t do that. They would want to argue and say, “Why not?” but I got them to stop. I even got them to stop taking short cuts across our yard.
Try as I might our yard was never perfect. However we had a very tall mulberry tree in our front yard that gave an abundance of fruit every summer. Lots of neighborhood kids would be in our yard uninvited picking fruit including children we didn’t even know. Eventually there was even a grown Mexican woman who we didn’t know picking fruit with the children. My mother who was raised on a farm in Ohio knew how to bake pies from scratch and she would bake us delicious mulberry pies every summer. There was always a smaller, immature mulberry tree on the other side of the front driveway that as yet did not bear fruit. It was not planted by design but it looked very beautiful and perfect where it was at. It was obviously a child of the mother tree. Between the front sidewalk and the curb grew a Palo Verde tree. This type of tree was native to the Arizona-Sonora desert. It had a slender trunk and limbs with smooth, green bark. The branches hung down with leaves that were thin strands with tiny green, pointed ovals along each strand. This gave the leaves a feathery look. At times the tree, also, had tiny, yellow flowers. People who were driving by would stop their cars in front and tell me that the tree was beautiful. Another of these trees had begun to grow several feet away.
We had some bushes along the front wall of the house that had small, dark green, waxy leaves. They grew up to the roof of the house and had a low arch between them. We called them bird berry bushes because they grew berries that looked exactly like tiny apples that the birds loved to eat. They were bright red on the outside, white inside and had tiny black seeds just like tiny apples. We ate them ourselves sometimes. Sometimes we’d watch the birds go crazy eating them. My father later told me that the bird berries made the birds drunk. That’s why they loved them so much.
We, also, had two plum trees on the other side of the yard past the car port. They grew right up next to the backyard fence. These small, dark, purple and green trees gave fruit every summer. In the same area was a small palm tree that was only a few feet high and the pond, a small concrete pond that my father had made. It was bordered by large rocks that were good for sitting on. The pond was only filled when one of my brothers or I filled it with a garden hose. After the two rainy seasons in Tucson we would bring tadpoles from the desert in jars to put tadpoles in the pond. The cats would come and lick some of them up from the pond to eat them. We watched the ones that were left grow hind legs and front legs. Then they would lose their tails. Eventually they became little frogs hopping around the pond until they got bigger and hopped away.
And these were the treasures of the front yard! In back there was a patio where on summer days we would eat breakfast outdoors since it was already seventy degrees even early in the morning. We would eat cereal and cantaloupe. There was another fruitless mulberry tree that was a good climbing tree. Here is where we built a tree house in it of scrap wood. The mulberry tree, instead of growing fruit, grew yellow flowers. My mother just called it a fruitless tree. Later in life when I thought back on this it became obvious to me it was the male tree that pollinated the fruit bearing mulberry tree in the front yard. There was a lawn there and next to the redwood slat, back yard fence was the clothes line where my mother hung clothes to dry and sometimes lots of diapers. I often helped my mother with the laundry. We had an old fashioned, washing machine in the back yard with a wringer to wring the excess water out of the clothes. I loved to run through the lines of cotton diapers on the clothes lines when they got dry because of the fresh smell.
Next to the wall of the house in the flower beds was a peach tree. The mother of this peach tree was in a small patch of dry lawn on the other side of the patio. Every summer the peach trees were heavily laden with fruit. The younger peach tree was once so heavily laden with fruit that one of its branches broke from the weight. My mother would make us peach pie, peach cobbler and peaches with whipped cream for dessert. She made the whipped cream from scratch. We often had peach slices with our cereal in the morning.
Then there was the weeping willow tree on the other side of the back yard driveway. The entrance to the driveway had tall, wooden gates that my father built into the redwood slat fence that encircled the back yard. The tree grew from a square made of low, red brick walls. Its gnarled roots filled the earth inside the brick enclosure. Its long, thin branches hung down low over the roots with its long, green leaves. In the spring it was not good to be under the tree’s branches because the caterpillars would be spitting out green junk that would fall on us. Later came the beautiful butterflies as they emerged from the cocoons that the caterpillars had retreated to after having their fill of eating weeping willow leaves. For a short time butterflies covered the hanging branches before flying away. Then there was the summer when the tree would achieve its full, lush greenery and glory. It was nice and cool in the shade behind the green curtains of the weeping willow tree branches. I felt a sense of peace hiding in there on hot summer days.
In the back yard behind the weeping willow tree was a fallow area of dirt. At times we grew watermelon there, potatoes and carrots. My mother gave me packages of seeds and my father taught me how to grow things. We were able to grow some corn but the stocks of corn did not get really high like on my grandfather’s farm in Ohio. We tried to grow sunflowers and were successful but the birds ate all the sunflower seeds. The birds went crazy eating the seeds from the big, yellow flowers. At times it was hard for us to even get close to the plants because of the crazed birds.
We had a kid goat for awhile as a pet and then a desert tortoise. My sisters were afraid of the goat so my father sold it back to the feed store he had bought it from. The tortoise kept digging under the fence to escape out to the desert. He finally got too much of a head start on us so we couldn’t find him. Then we got a little dog and this patch of dirt became his potty area.
The weeping willow tree was not a great tree for climbing. It was not like the huge mulberry tree in the front yard. The mulberry tree had thick branches that separated at a low level on the trunk. It was easy to climb and there was a place high above from which I could look down on the world below. I could even look down on the roof of the house. It was a natural place where branches cradled me. I could recline there. It was a place I would go to when the noise of my brothers and sisters became too much for me. When I got upset I would climb up to my high spot in the tree to think and have peace of mind. It was a place where my imagination was set free from the troubles of life.