Yesterday was Easter Sunday, though it didn't feel too much like an Easter. I usually associate it with warm Spring days, church bells chiming, Easter egg hunts, friends and family...but it was cold and gray and it felt empty and joyless, not unlike my mood...
A neighbor down the street, Pat, had invited my mom and I to come over for Easter, so with no other plans, we went. I hadn't exactly been looking forward to it, since I would hardly know anyone, and besides, they were all my mom's age and older. It underscored the sense of detachment from the day, and my sense of isolation as I kept thinking of past Easters, and the past days of joy and fun they represented, which seemed light years away. But I thought, well, it'll be fun just to get out and go somewhere new, even if it was just a few doors down. And I was appreciative of Pat's generosity in having me over.
When we got there, about 6 or 7 neighbors were already there, I recognized Ron...and we all greeted each other warmly. I was in 'social mode' with an air of politeness and savoir faire, which was greatly polished when I worked at the store, when multitudes of seniors would come through my line.
Though after awhile, it became less of an 'act' and more of a natural state, as I became more comfortable in chatting with Ron and the other folks who were arriving. Ron had been good friends with my dad, and he told stories of their fishing exploits, and I told stories of his younger days when I was growing up in San Jose. We talked baseball with some of the others too. I don't know what it is about old ladies and baseball, but many of them are such huge fans! My mom included. As the afternoon wore on, some of them sat down to play cards (a game I've never heard of) as they gossiped about some of the neighbors. Others were riveted to the Yankees - Red Sox game on TV, as I partially was, though mindful of the fact that it's not entirely polite to watch the tube during a social gathering. But my mood had certainly elevated from earlier in the day. Ron asked me how I liked it in Tulare. I said I liked it fine, though it's quieter than I'm used to, and to be honest I missed my life back up North, and felt like I'm living in a sort of aftermath. He said, "Well, I think alot of us go through that...here's a test to see if your mission on Earth is finished; if you're alive, it ain't!" I laughed and said, "yeah, that's a good one!"...and it was.
Ron has a slight accent, as do many of them...though down here it's not so much an accent as it a regular local dialect. A southern accent, from Texas/Oklahoma, or to put it plainly, an 'Okie accent', which is probably different if you're in Oklahoma, but perfectly natural here. I thought once again of 'The Grapes of Wrath' which I had in an earlier blog. (see below) Especially when Pat began talking about Lendell Ranch. "We left our damn pickup at Lendell Ranch when we finally moved outta there...that thing got us to California, but it wasn't goin' an inch further..."
Lendell Ranch was a government run camp which housed thousands of displaced families looking for work in the Central Valley. It was built in 1938, and to this day it's hexagonal pattern of streets is part of an old neighborhood south of Visalia. Tagus Ranch was another one, just north of here. I began to realize that aside from watching 'The Grapes of Wrath' a few weeks ago, here were living icons of that era. And I felt a certain sense of honor to be spending Easter with them, because they are indeed the salt of the earth.
When we left, I thanked them all warmly and genuinely, and I walked home thinking of the hardship that many of them must have indured when they first arrived in California, and how petty and foolish I was for being in such a funk earlier that day. And the words still echo...
"Here's a test to see if your mission on Earth is finished; if you're alive, it ain't..."