Garden of Memories

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Liza Garden of Memories gate.jpg
At the gate

Over the weekend, Liza and I had another adventure. We visited thousands of people… but we were all alone. It was windy and chilly when Uncle David dropped us of at the corner of Abbott and Romie Lane, where the Garden of Memories Cemetery has been since the city began, more than 150 years ago. Liza had wanted to see where her historical friends,  John Steinbeck and the Harvey family, were buried.

I like cemeteries. I like the Lone Fir, which is near our house in Portland, and I like the Garden of Memories. The two are about the same age, with burials from the 1840s, which means they both have some tombstones you can’t read because of the letters wearing off.

Sign to Steinbeckgarave.jpg

First we walked until we found a big, new sign showing us the way to John Steinbeck’s grave. He is so famous, people come from all over the world to visit him here. John is buried in the Hamilton family plot, along with his father and mother, his sister Mary, and his wife Elaine. We had forgotten to bring flowers, but Liza found some that had blown onto the road, and she placed them on the Hamilton headstone. We talked about Mr. Steinbeck and the books he wrote, his library and “newseum”, as she calls it.

Liza at Steinbeck grave1.jpg
Paying her respects to Mr. Steinbeck

Then we walked toward the old apple tree which, for me, marks the Harvey family area. Isaac J. Harvey and his wife Sarah, two of their children and many grandchildren, are here. We talked about the family, with young Mabel being Liza’s favorite. We found Mabel’s big sister, Saphronia, who was the first school teacher in Salinas, and the grave of Saphronia’s little baby Rupert, who died when he was only five months old. The idea that babies could die was new to Liza, and she did some thinking about it while stomping on piles of dirt that some gophers had pushed up.

Saphronia grave.jpg
Grave of Saphronia Harvey Clark

The wind was very chilly and we needed to find a sheltered place to have our snack. The Columbarium, a building where the ashes of people who were cremated are put in small niches, was a perfect place. Not dark or scary at all, it has big painted windows and is bright and beautiful, with comfortable chairs. We enjoyed our yogurt, crackers and apples while reading memorials to the people.

pretty reflection
Inside the columbarium

The sun came out while we were resting, and we ventured out to a small courtyard with more niches and a small fountain. Behind that we found the memorial to Company C, 194th Tank Battalion, a group of soldiers mostly from Salinas who were in the Army during World War II. They served in the Philippines, and 105 of them died there, on what is called The Bataan Death March. The tank and plaque with all their names on it is their marker.

Memorial to Company C

We visited the Jewish section of the cemetery to see some old friends of mine, like Max Gadsky and Sue Dove, as well as people I know only by reputation, like Rabbi Abraham Haselkorn, who was the leader of the Jewish community here in Salinas for many years.

We had more places to see, so we said goodbye to all the nice dead people and headed west on Romie Lane. I’ll tell you where we went next tomorrow!


Grandma Judy



Drizzly Saturday Walk

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Saturday was rainy but warm here in Salinas. I woke up knowing the report cards were waiting for me, but also knowing they could wait a little longer. I called my friend Pat van Noy and we made a date for Brunch at Ellie’s Great American Restaurant. Uncle David was taking Liza to a friend’s house, so he gave me a ride.

Pat, looking good!

Pat and I ate and talked for about 2 hours! It’s amazing how fast time goes by when you are laughing and telling stories with a dear friend. I caught her up on our life and plans for Portland…the new house we are buying, the neighborhood, Auntie Bridgett’s art shows, and my story-writing. She told me about her singing in The Senior Singers and playing bridge with friends.

I had a Mojo Cuban Sandwich which was spicy and sweet. Pat had a patty melt, which she liked very much. The service was friendly, as usual, but a bit slow because it was busy for Saturday brunch.

bird notes
Musical Birds

After we had talked ourselves dry, Pat offered me a ride home, but I wanted to have a long walk after my week being mostly inside. I buttoned up my jacket, wrapped my scarf, and slapped on my hat. I was ready.

There were lovely grey clouds and such tiny drizzle drops I could hardly feel them, which made for lovely soft light. Neighborhood sights are small and quiet, and if you are in a hurry to get somewhere, you miss them. Birds on the wire looking like Schroeder’s notes in Charlie Brown…. a lost teething ring carefully hung on a branch, waiting to be retrieved…. an adorable Beware of Dogs sign.

Beware of dog sign
Oh, No! Dogs!

I stopped  by to see one of my oldest friends in Salinas, Rick, and we talked for a long time. He is headed to Disneyland, which he calls The Holy City, this Spring on his annual Pilgrimage. I envy him the fun but not the drive or the crowds!

lost teething ring
Lost teething ring

When I finally got home, Uncle David and Liza were back and Liza was napping. I used her naptime to get all the report cards entered into the computer. Now all I have to do is print them out (keep your fingers crossed!) before conferences start on Wednesday.

The Paperwork


Grandma Judy

Keeping Busy

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This week has been busy, even though I hardly left  the house except for the walk to school and back.

Princess Party Place in the lower right

Liza and I have been playing LEGOs a lot. I like that you can make whatever you want, and don’t have to follow the directions. This week we have been creating a party venue for Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and an assortment of creatures of our own making. Liza has a big circle bag to keep the LEGOs in one place. It makes cleaning up much easier, and we never step on blocks!

Liza’s creations

Uncle David taught Liza how to shoot rubber bands (don’t ask me why, but he did. I guess it’s a life skill.) Her hands aren’t quite strong enough yet, but it’s good eye hand practice and we made an evening of it, shooting them into a big bowl we borrowed from Auntie Olga.

Mimi card
Card from MiMi

I got mail this week! Our dear friend MiMi sent a thank you card for some candied nuts we had taken to her house. It was a watercolor picture of the bag of nuts! How special is that? So wonderful to have sweet, talented friends. I also got a card from you, Kestrel! I know it had been in the mailbox for awhile, but it was fine. Thanks so much for thinking of me.

Card from you!!

Last night we played with light. Liza had a big bag from our take out dinner from the Moss Landing Cafe, and I turned it into a hat. It went from bag, to hat, to light show! Liza has an RGB LED light in her room, which is a fancy way of saying a light that can change color and stay cool. We put some holes in the bag, put the light in the bag, and made a planetarium. It was beautiful and fun. It felt magical, but Uncle David explained why the colors separated like they did, so it was also a science lesson.

Light Show on the Ceiling

This morning was a puppet show in my room, with a tooth fairy, a girl, a flying tooth, and a stray Leprechaun. The stuffties were the audience.

puppet show
Puppet Show Audience

And the rest of the day will be spent on Report Cards. There is a lot of paperwork to get ready for the final information going into the computer…special forms for kids learning English, special graphs for reading programs…but it all is important. It takes a couple of days to get it all together.

I wonder if this is what John Steinbeck meant when he said “There’s always something to do in Salinas.”


Grandma Judy

Adventure to History (Part 2)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

After Cousin Liza and I left the Steinbeck Center, we went to the Historic Harvey House, the oldest house in Salinas, which is 150 years old. Since it was the first Saturday of the month, it was open, and we could go inside!

File:First Mayors house Salinas ca.jpg
The Historic Harvey House

The Harvey House was built in 1868 for Isaac J. Harvey, the first mayor of the city of Salinas. He was a businessman and traveler, always on the lookout for new places and opportunities. He saw the wealth of Salinas’s rich soil and good location and decided to settle here for a while. He helped build the town and bring the railroad here, and had his own business, a mercantile store where folks could buy anything they needed.

I. J.  had this house built for his wife Sarah and his three daughters, Saphronia, Josephine and Mabel. After a few years of working and being the mayor, Isaac’s business went bankrupt. He moved away to find other work for a while, but Sarah and the girls were tired of moving, and stayed here. The girls got married and had their own kids. The house stayed in the family until Isaac’s grand daughters got too old to stay by themselves and it is now open as a museum once a month, and for school field trips.

Liza at Harvey House 1.jpg
Larry Showing Liza all of Sarah Harvey’s things

My friend Larry Smith was at the House, and he showed us around. He showed Liza things that had belonged to Mabel and Sarah. Some things, like the hairbrushes, were pretty familiar, but a shoe button hook was pretty strange to see.

Liza and carpet sweeper.jpg
Running the carpet sweeper

Larry took us out to the cottage, which is used as a classroom when students come to visit. It is a great place to learn more about the history of Salinas and to see old tools people used. Larry showed Liza how to bang on a triangle to call folks in for supper, clean carpets with a carpet sweeper (no electricity!) and even use a boot jack. Outside, she got to pump some water with a real hand pump and run around the garden.

Liza and pump.jpg
The pump!

Finished with our tour of the House, (Thanks, Larry!) we wandered to the Model Railroad Museum and saw the whole Salinas Valley in miniature. Trees, farms, stores, with trains hooking it all together. We got to climb up into a big old caboose and see how a telegraph works.

Liza and tiny trains.jpg
Model trains, model valley!

Almost ready to crash, we said goodbye to all the history and walked to see Adrian at Blue Aces Bakery. We chatted and got some cookie dough to nibble on, then asked Uncle David to come fetch us.

Liza at caboose.jpg
In the caboose

What a long, wonderful day!


Grandma Judy



Adventure to History (Part 1)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Our adventure yesterday covered some familiar ground also some new adventures. Uncle David gave Liza and me a ride downtown so we could have more energy and time to spend there. It was a very chilly, bright day.

Bright winter sky.jpg
Bright winter sun

Our first stop was the National Steinbeck Center, which Liza had asked to go visit again. She calls it “Mr. Steinbeck’s Newseum”, which I love! We found another one of the big boulders carved with a quote from Mr. Steinbeck. It says, “I think I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and the ranches in the wilder hills. I can see how I would like to do it so that it would be the valley of the world.” This what John Steinbeck did, really. He wrote about this place as a metaphor for all places, all people, all struggles, all opportunity.  His writings were always true to the spirit of the people.

Liza with cutout steinbeck.jpg
Liza and John
Steinbeck stone at center.jpg
Climbing a Steinbeck Boulder



We took some silly pictures of Liza posing with a life sized cut out of John Steinbeck, then pretended to drive a 1915 model A that is inside the exhibit. I got to be the driver, and this was my view:



There is another section of the museum that has the bed John Steinbeck slept in as a child. There are photographs of his school days and his classmates,  a box of books you can read and comfy chairs to sit on. It was so much fun to read, feeling like we were visiting with such a good writer.

Liza reading at Steinbeck.jpg
Reading with John’s school

Liza spent some quality time with her old friend The Red Pony, combing his mane and climbing on and (carefully) off. She visited the poor children in the Grapes of Wrath exhibit, and spent some time watching the captioning on the filmed reading of the novel, picking out words she recognized. She is becoming such a good reader!

She used to magnifying glass to look at the collection of sea animals from Doc Rickett’s Lab, reading the words “Crab” and “Sea Star” but stumbling a bit over “Anemone”. We took a pretend trip to the Sea of Cortez in the little rowboat in the exhibit, looking at the map of Mr. Steinbeck’s and Doc’s trip.

Liza at docs.jpg
At Doc’s Lab

Since it was getting close to lunchtime, we stepped onto the patio and had some cheese, apples and crackers. The sun was bright but chilly, so we had our coats on, but it was delightful. After we ate, we took another quick walk through the exhibits to say goodbye to everyone, then Liza was anxious to go to our next destination: The Harvey House, the oldest house in Salinas.

More on that tomorrow!


Grandma Judy




Student Art

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Karens little guy.jpg
Karen’s Little Dude

One of the things I love doing with my fourth graders is art. I love and appreciate art, but I am not trained in it. So my students and I are on more of a level playing field. I love seeing what they can do!Riley.jpg

Last week we played with Impressionism. We looked at paintings by Monet and Renoir, seeing how they blurred their colors and played with light. This was hard to do. Kids who are used to drawing with hard pencil lines don’t like fuzzy lines. The most successful work was from Ramon, who did a picture of his uncle’s jeeps.

Ramon impressionist jeeps
Off Road Evo by Ramon

This week we watched a video about Henri Matisse and his papercuts, which he called “Painting with scissors”. My students took the idea and ran with it!

We got very Matisse-like abstracts, as well as original cartoon characters, cowboys, and even an aquarium which was a collaboration between three boys. The art and the working together was beautiful to see.

Ramon’s Cowboy

Afterwards, of course, we spent quite a while putting away scissors and glue, and getting millions of tiny its of paper off the floor. But it was worth it! I wonder what kind of art we will do next week?

Collaborative Aquarium


Grandma Judy


Missing Portland

K and J at night .jpg
You two goofballs!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

The weather here in Salinas has been rainy and cool, making me miss dear Portland even more. This is nothing against my family here, my school or my colleagues. Everyone and everything is lovely. It’s just not my home anymore.

nelson forest park
Grandpa Nelson

I miss, of course, Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson. They are buying our new home in our favorite neighborhood, and even looking at new furniture to go in it. They have promised not to buy anything until I get home, but still… I am here and they are there.

I miss you and your mommy. I have just started to get to know you, and now I am here, and you are there.

Your Mommy
Bridg hat xmas
Auntie Bridgett

I miss the trees. Seeing the old trees cut down on Central Avenue in Salinas last weekend drove this home. Central Park has also lost many of its big trees, either to wind or disease. It feels naked. Laurelhurst Park in Portland, with its gigantic 100 year old maples and Douglas firs, is a peaceful forest right in the neighborhood. I miss its calm and cool spaces and the friendly folks and dogs you find there.

Laurelhurst Park
mossy stepping stone.jpg
Mossy stone

I miss the moss. Without the constant moisture, Salinas sidewalks, garden walls and garages are lacking the soft green and are painfully clean scrubbed. There seems to be no history, no built-up memories. Everything seems too new, even being 150 years old this year.

I miss the variety. Within blocks in Portland you can find a vegan bakery, organic ice cream, sushi, Spanish, and Hawaiian food, as well as three different art galleries, a museum, four micro-brew pubs, pinball, and small live and movie theaters. Salinas is too small, and too familiar, to be intriguing anymore.

I guess this is my melancholy love letter to Portland.


Grandma Judy