Dad (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

When Momma and Dad bought the house in Lompoc, the first thing to do was make it ready to live in. The back yard was all weeds and the house had been badly used. Everything needed fixing. But for them, this was part of the fun.

Dad, getting the backyard in shape

While they worked, they got to know their neighbors and the town. Momma joined the Alpha Club and Dad joined Elks. This was a lucky thing for the Elks, because they were just beginning to build a new lodge, and Dad helped with electrical work and general hauling. He designed and helped build the floats for parades. He even barbecued dinner for everyone!

One of the many Elks’ floats he designed and built

My folks were natural joiners. They loved playing cards or going dancing with friends, and if those new folks liked camping, so much the better.

After they had lived in Lompoc for about ten years, they bought a fine fifth wheel trailer. Dad got an idea. “How about we go in the road long term?” Momma was against it. She couldn’t imagine leaving her garden or her friends. “Let’s try it for six months,”. Dad promised. “If you hate it, I won’t mention it again.”

Yet another adventure!

So they rented the house to a friend, packed up, and headed off. By the end of the six months, momma was sold on the idea, and they traveled to every state they could drive to over the next eight years. Dad loved history and would visit every tiny museum and library. They went to church every Sunday at whatever church was closest. They made new friends all over the country.

Every now and then, they would swing by our house in Salinas, say hello, and help the kids with their bar mitzvah projects, then head off again. They had so much fun!

Stopping by for a visit

In September of 1988 they came by Salinas on their way home, and I took the day off to go with them to Point Lobos. It was the last day we got to spend together.

My last picture of Momma and Dad together

They were heading home when dad had a stroke and died in his sleep. We were all shocked, as he had seemed in very good health. The family got the trailer moved back to Lompoc, and Momma lived in it for a year, right in the back yard. Even after taking care of the many details required of new widows, she wasn’t quite ready to take up regular life yet, having lost “the most fun part” of her life after 51 years.

Dad’s funeral at the Elks’ lodge

But one day when we were visiting, she wiped her eyes after yet another cry, and said, “If Lowell saw me sitting here, crying like a baby, he’d come down and kick my butt.” Sometimes, when I am sad, I say the same thing. Thanks, Dad.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Emotional about Plants

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LOMPOC, 1979

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LOMPOC, 2012

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This week, I have been thinking about the plants in my life. Plants that have been special me and my family, particularly my Momma, Billie Evans. Momma was a real gardener. She knew the names of every plant, and if she didn’t know, she looked it up or asked Mr. Bishop, who ran the nursery around the corner from our house in Manhattan Beach.

Momma had a few plants she was emotionally attached to. There was a large hydrangea, a full 8 feet in diameter and higher than her head, that she loved. It held pride of place in our front yard. It had been a wedding gift from her former landlady, Mrs. Ray, in 1947. She loved that plant so much. But she loved Daddy more, and when he had to move it to put in an extra driveway for the trailer he was building, she took cuttings and made the most of it.

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AFTER

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MORE AFTER

When my parents retired and moved to Lompoc, their yard was a mass of overgrown wild mustard. It was weeks of work just to have bare ground to start with. But over the years Daddy nurtured his vegetables and fruits, his berry vines and green beans, and Momma grew her flower garden. Daddy shopped for the best seedlings; Momma got cuttings from friends.

When she’d walk you around the garden, she’d say,”That’s one of Nadine’s roses, isn’t it doing well?” “Those geraniums are from Mr. Tucker…he says they are so old, you can’t buy them anymore!” She loved her plants, but that was really an extension of the love she had for people in her life.

When Momma couldn’t live by herself anymore and we needed to sell the house in Lompoc, I made sure to take cuttings from every geranium. They thrived in my garden in Salinas and are now in pots on our patio in Portland. They, like Momma’s garden, are an extension of the love of these people. The lilies that grew so tall by her lemon tree are now lighting up a corner of her Grandson David’s yard in Salinas.

In 2012, the city of Lompoc invited Momma to have her garden on their city garden tour. Hers was listed as “The Friendship Garden” because the majority of her plants came from friends. People came by and visited all day. She was frail by that time, but she was so happy to walk everyone around and tell them about her garden.

Now, here in Salinas, there is a new generation of family getting attached to plants. My granddaughter Liza was born just 5 years ago. On the day she was born, a friend and I moved a small lemon tree from an awkward spot in her family’s backyard to a better place by the fence. That is Liza’s lemon tree. She knows the story of it and tells me about it when we play out in the yard.

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Liza’s Lemon Tree

Plants and us. We be family.

Love,

Grandma Judy