We only visited there a few days each summer of my California childhood til I turned ten. You’d think I stopped by that sprawling place just this week the way I can describe it, but I haven’t been to my grandparents’ ranch since they sold it forty-five years ago.
Aren’t memories a mystery?
Wrapped up in nostalgic scents and colorful images, they come with clues about who we are. I just couldn’t put my finger on the significance of this one, even though I knew it was vital to recovering an important part of me.
My dad said his folks’ ranch was nicknamed Escobita after the purple wildflowers that surrounded it every spring. I just remember the buzzing creosote bushes—yellow with bees—that lined the walk to the front door. I learned not to stick my nose in noisy blossoms, but I still love the smell of those sticky green bushes. And when you pour in a little rain? Man, to me that’s heaven. If you ever get to sniff the fragrance of the desert after a deluge, you can thank the creosote for the sweet, fresh scent that hangs in the air. It’s like . . . a desert daiquiri—a sublime sip that reminds me of that ranch.
The house at Escobita was modest, built of round river rocks that were probably gathered nearby. Rivers in Arizona don't have water, they have sand and rocks. I remember there was a wide open room they called the breezeway, right through the middle of the home, separating bedrooms from the living spaces. And on each end it was punctuated with screen doors to exploit wayward breezes.
At the back of the kitchen was another door that led to a cool, tunnel of a room. That one connected the main house to the garage. The house had no air conditioning. Not even a “swamp cooler”. The only relief from summer’s triple digits was concrete floors, electric fans, and an escape atop the garage where you could go when the house was too hot.
I remember the vivid display of stars from that rooftop, but I don’t think I ever really slept up there—I was too afraid the howling coyotes might climb the stairs to our outdoor bedroom. My granddad said they wouldn’t eat me, but why take chances?
I often dream of houses. But they're always different, with surprise rooms hidden behind door after door, level after level. And I only dream of each one once. I dreamt of my grandparents' home dozens of times. For years, I wondered if that meant it was a metaphor of my life.It didn’t follow a cookie cutter layout—neither do I. It had surprising qualities, and some dark corners with a few scary critters—I can relate to that. I can still picture my grandmother killing scorpions on the walls.
I thought it was a neat house, but if it was metaphorical, there was one outstanding memory of the place I couldn’t make sense of.
Like a leftover piece of a puzzle, it just didn’t fit.