Letter to Mother

Hello mother, I love you so very much and I miss you almost everyday. I often think

about the old days and try to remember some of the good times we shared together

as a family. Do you remember the first time we came to California? We lived in the

old Canterbury house there on 25th ave.


I remember that big old Buick, you know the one that had that big shinny grill and

long hood; I remember that hood looked like an old submarine with those three port

holes on each side. That Buick seemed so big to me, that is until you and dad and the

whole family piled in.


I remember that you packed the trunk full and I think there was a rack on top of the

car overloaded with all that we owned; and I remember after you loaded the car we

all got in and headed for California. I wasn't sure as to why we were going, but I knew

that we were going because all my stuff was packed away somewhere in the bowels

of that old Buick.


It was the summer of 1958 and I had just finished the third grade. You told me

that we were going to California just that day; at least that's the way I remember

it. I remember you had bought a lot of smoked ham from a butchery that had

recently burnt down.


I asked you why you had bought so much ham; you told me that we were going to

eat it on our trip. We ate that ham on white bread laden with mayonnaise all the way

to California. I still to this day become nauseated when I think of ham sandwiches.


My first memory of the trip was that of wide streets with tall thin palms that lined the

road that lead to the state capitol at Tallahassee. I remember Georgia as winding roads

lined with tall pines, and red dirt that seemed to be painted with water colors.


We drove through the night and I must have slept through Alabama, Mississippi

and Louisiana, because I have no memory of those states. When I think of those states

I see large stately oaks adorned with moss hanging like English wigs from the heads

of parliament holding court over those who pass in the night. Maybe I did look out

the window once or twice.


Texas came with the morning. I remember you or dad, Iím not sure which said

"it'll take all day to cross this state", well it did. Texas was flat open country and

every now and then a town would pop-up. I don't remember stopping much,

only for gas or to use the restroom. The things I remember most were the oil derricks.


They seemed alive, moving up and down like black thirsty animals searching for

water hidden beneath the ground. They stretched across the horizon, forever moving

up and down, searching and searching, never to stop and neither did we. We kept going

and going searching and searching for what I didn't know, I suspected California.


New Mexico has special memories; I remember sitting there in the back sit of that

old Buick with the hot desert wind blowing through the window on my face,

I was mesmerized by the mountain, dreaming of Indians galloping across the mesas,

hunting large herds of buffalo.


I remember the desert sunset; an explosion of mundane colors spilling across the windows

of that big old Buick as we raced across the hot asphalt. The only Indians that I saw sold

trinkets at those wonderful curio trading posts that lined the highway.


I loved it when you read those signs that magically appeared along the highway,

Jake's snake pit five miles ahead; Navajo arts and crafts, real live Indians next stop.

Those shops had everything, all kinds of rocks, bones, snakes, bottles, pottery,

and canvas water bags.


Those canvas water bags hung from every car that passed, we had two. They hung

from the grill, seemingly collecting water from the ocean that covered the hot asphalt,

as we drove across the desert.


Those water bags really did have a purpose. Back in the fifties there weren't many stops

along the desert highway. If your car broke down it could take quite along time before

help arrived. Those water bags became very important.


I remember while driving through a desert of sand dunes, which looked like an ocean,

the sky behind us became as black as night. You and dad seemed very concerned.

We were just in front of a giant sand storm. This scared me.


I remember thinking that we would be covered in sand, never to be found and dad was

driving pretty fast, trying to out run the storm. He eventually pulled the car into a gully

below a bridge, hoping that the bridge would give some protection from the wind and sand.

It was pretty scary sitting there in the car.


Everything became dark and the car was shaking from the wind. The air was

dry and warm,you could taste the sand. The storm blew by as quick as it had

come and the sky became blue again.


I remember running to the front of the car and took a big drink from one of those

canvas water bags. That was the first time I really tasted water, and it tasted wonderful.


Mother I don't remember too much about California other than that we stayed in

a small town called Live Oak, in some small cabins. We stayed with your brother,

uncle Grady and family.

Uncle Grady owned a couple of big trucks that he hired out to the local farmers,

hauling hay and chicken manure and what ever he could load on his trucks.

We stayed through the summer and around September it was decided to return

to Florida.


This time my uncle Grady and his family would return with us. It was like

a reverse image of the Grapes of Wrath.


We loaded everything onto those old trucks and covered it with old tarps. Uncle Gradyís

kids and our family all piled onto those old trucks and head back to Florida trucks and

we headed back to Florida.


Mother I guess you probably donít remember these as I do, but it is as clear as I can

remember as an eight year old remembering through a forty seven year old mind.

Mother I love you and Iíll try to remember some other times and maybe record them

and send them to you so take care.




© 1996 Jim Cain