A Curious Time


During my early growing years, life in San Francisco was fascinating. Not just because I was young and very inquisitive, but because that was San Francisco. It was a place that everyone wanted to visit, experience, and enjoy. There were so many wonderful restaurants and museums, and so many interesting people to watch. You could go to the wharf with your makeshift fishing pole, some worms, and catch fish. If you brought the fish home, your mom might through them away because they smelled of oil. It was fun, though to spend the day enjoying the wonderful essence of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It was especially fun to grow up on San Francisco if your uncle owned the only gas station – tire place, in town, or rather in the Van Ness district.
Uncle Ray’s garage was the place that most of the people living anywhere near Van Ness would seek. They would come and ask him what to do about their car and how much it would cost to fix their mechanical problem. It really didn’t matter if he knew the answer or how to fix the problem, because Uncle Ray would eventually figure out the answer, fix the problem, and make lots of money. So much money, that, years later when he died, my aunt found coffee cans filled with money hidden in secret places in the garage. The total of all those cans of hidden fortune amounted to over $175,000! She had no idea about the money. He was secretive, crafty, believable, and not one to spend a lot of money. He was pretty much the strongest influence of anyone on me during my first five years of life. I learned that I could, if I tried and if I used my imagination, resolve most of the issues or challenges I would face.
My mom was sick with the “lung sickness” during the first years of my life, so I spent that time with my grandmother and aunt and uncle. The “lung sickness” was contagious and very scary to everyone. I was the first grandchild so all of my relatives on my mother’s side wanted to make sure that I would be okay. Later on in life, my mother would tell me that not having me with her was the most painful time in her life.
My grandmother, aunt, and uncle and I lived in a very small, two-story, walk-up. There wasn’t much in the way of space in which to play or create so I started building adventures in my mind in “secret spaces” such as an out of the way closet or in our small attic or down in the cellar. I was always very curious about everything and even to this day I still remain curious. I remember sitting on the fender of one the cars my uncle was working on and asking him what he was doing. “Well, if you take this screwdriver and you put it into this part of the carburetor you can make the car go better,” was his response. So, I would listen, watch, and wonder what a carburetor was? When he wasn’t around I would pretend to help someone with their car problem offering the same advice I had so often heard my uncle utter. Later on in life, I would remember how he would let me turn a screw, hand him a wrench, or let me hammer something. I believe he helped me to be better equipped for things that were to happen as I matured into a young man. He helped me to understand that there were options and the right tool for the right job or task and that being curious was a good thing.
Our family get-togethers happened during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays. Those were fun times. My mother’s aunts, uncles, cousins, my great-grandmother (my granny), great-grandfather, grandmother, and my mom and dad would all get together. The initial conversation was mostly superficial. Nothing too deep at first, then, after a few drinks everyone would play cards, drink some more, throw dice, and just laugh to “beat the band,” at least that is what my granny used to say. Our dinner faire was more than enough and no one would ever go home hungry. We didn’t have a lot of money but everyone would contribute various dishes except for the Turkey and the Dressing. That was my granny’s specialty. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. There was perfectly prepared turkey, gravy with giblets, corn, mashed potatoes with lots of butter, cranberry sauce, green beans, and of course stuffing. Wow, the stuffing was great!
The adults would adjourn to the living room and then the stories would begin about Texas and Oklahoma and San Francisco. All of us little kids would listen through the door. They told great stories that conjured up beautiful and exciting scenes in the minds of all of us. There were never any real arguments or misunderstandings. Everyone seemed to trust and enjoy the time and each other. Perhaps it was because they were all so connected through my great grandmother and her sisters and brothers. It was during these “get-togethers” that my father was at his most quiet state. He never felt that he belonged in my mom’s family. After a while, when granny felt it was time she announced, “time for dessert!” “who wants pumpkin pie, or minced meat pie?” All of the children would jump up and down with the words, “me, and both, and me, and two pieces please!” After all, they had been waiting for the “adult talking stuff” to end so that dessert could begin.
When you know everyone is in another place, busy with their own things of interest, you can ask questions and do things that you would never want anyone to know about. And so it was that I asked Geraldine to go on our great adventure. It was during one of our family gatherings that I asked the burning questions that had been creeping into my mind almost everyday. I knew everyone would be playing cards or rolling dice and would not be paying attention to us. It would be easy to slip away downstairs to the cellar far away from prying eyes and out of earshot. It was a curious time in my life and I had so many questions running around in the continuously, growing crevasses of my mind that I had to ask. Geraldine was also very curious, so when I asked her my questions, I knew I was about to have my answers.
Geraldine was my first adventure into the mysteries of the opposite sex. We used to play together in the cellar while the grown-ups were busy upstairs. We had adventure after adventure. We laughed at just about everything we did. We were curious and we discovered a lot of answers to our questions in a very innocent way. Those times were very precious and all too short but then, they were just right.
I remember well, the time we said goodbye. It was just a fleeting look, barely a touch, and then it was off to my new home in another town, and her journey to her new time in life. We laughed again as we looked at each other for the last time, sweet thoughts, happy moments. It was now time for our new adventure, the first grade.

A Curious Time


Auburn, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

My first years in San Francisco when time was so much a pleasure and slower.

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