BEST FRIENDS

It seems only fitting on this August day

To send you good wishes and tell you I pray

That you are listening, as daily I reach

Out to your spirit and say, I beseech

That you have knowledge and live without pain,

That you can look in on your sons once again,

That you have contentment, where ever you are,

That you are nearby, or not very far.

You’d be surprised, I think, if you saw,

That I’ve taken up gardening–it’s not hard at all–

But you were the gardener and I was the chef,

At the end of the day, what then was left?

You’d bring me fresh lettuce, red tomatoes so round,

And basil as fresh as the leaves breaking ground;

Sometimes we grew corn, fresh golden ears,

Sometimes we had sunflowers, all volunteers,

We had concord grapes and squash in the fall,

And lemons and oranges, enough for us all.

and now when I think of the lives that we led,

I don’t think we were lovers, but best friends instead.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally written August 22, 2012, updated June 3, 2018

WHAT I LOST THAT YEAR (2008)

What I lost that year

is mostly a place

Not so far from where I am,

but too far to be there

on any kind of regular basis;

I lost the bougainvillea

that I loved so dearly,

And the orange and lemon trees

which do not grow in this place.

But there have been a decade of

discoveries,

of what does thrive

such as pomegranates, apples,

Pears and cherries. Best discovery

are the poppies, growing wild throughout

the Desert–for a brief spell, but Oh-so-

beautiful to see!

I lost the Jacaranda trees

and the crepe myrtle

which prefer a more temperate climate

as well.

I lost the marine layer

that shrouds the San Fernando valley

with fog several months of the year,

but you have to love the fog (more commonly known

as the marine layer)

to appreciate this loss.

I lost the nearness of the ocean

and the airport in Burbank, California–

Who would have ever imagined

that the frequent sound of

airplanes departing and landing

could be a loss?  It was and it is.

I lost the nearness of the

San Fernando Mission and

think that perhaps, the Santa

Barbara Mission, distant as it is,

May be one nearest to us now.

I have lost being near

many girlfriends,

who get together several times a year

for lunches,

or having friends drop by

because they were in the neighborhood.

But what I lost most of all I s that image of

Bob working in the garden or doing a crossword

puzzle in the Secret Garden, planting,

trimming, cutting bringing me

the first rose of spring;

It was his domain, that piece of land,

and when I think of him,

I see him working in the garden.

Yes, you say, but look what you have gained!

And I look around and say yes,

But look at how much has been lost.

I do have the secret  garden,

rebuilt and larger,

And when I meditate on letting go,

This is where I take myself,

And I listen to the wind chimes and the birds chirping.

Transitioning is far more difficult than you can imagine–

Unless you have been there and done that.

I spent more years in the Arleta house

than any other place in my entire life.

Thanksgiving weekend in November 2018

will be the ten year anniversary of my

transition from the San Fernando Valley

to the Antelope Valley, about sixty-five

miles north of my former home.

The greatest loss, I confess, was losing

Bob in September of 2011.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my Canadian Friends, Doreen & Harv, who took me to Pismo Beach in February of 2012, where I filled Bob’s request to put his ashes into the ocean.  I don’t think I could have gone through with his wishes if they had not been with me. So, thank you, Doreen & Harv.

Sandra Lee Smith

Written in August, 2012/Updated June 3, 2018

DREAMS

The dreams I had as a  young bride, in 1958,

were simple ones;

I wanted an apartment of our own,

Not two rooms downstairs from my husband’s mother;

And, I wanted to have a baby…

Why the latter was so important just then,

I can’t say except that

all of my girlfriends were getting married

and having babies.

The first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage,

and I learned a cold, hard lesson

while laying on a hospital bed,

When I begged my husband to come to the hospital

he refused, saying

He had to get up early to go to work

in the morning.

I cried, then, for my mother,

but would not call her to come.

A nurse sat by the bed

and held my hand

until I fell asleep.

Soon, I was pregnant again,

and in 1960, my son Michael was born

and I learned another cold hard lesson;

My husband’s mother and sister

took control of the baby.

He was never to be my baby.

I returned to work when Michael was

three months old,

leaving him to the care of his father,

grandmother, and aunt.

I think many of my dreams

were shattered in those first

two years of marriage.

Why, then, persevere?

When Michael was a y ear old,

We drove to California

And my dream, then, was

that my husband would grow up–

and perhaps to some degree, he did,

but his mother came to spend months

with us and

in 1962 I had another miscarriage.

Truthfully, I didn’t feel sorry for myself.

Not then, not now. They were just dreams

and oftentimes, dreams don’t come true

or dreams are shattered.

I may have learned it isn’t wise

to dream too much,

or have any great expectations.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

written January 2010

 

 

DOWN IN THE CELLAR (tales from the crypt)

Down in the cellar

It was cold and dark,

lit by one small, dim, overhead bulb,

That produced a bleak, weak light;

We played club in the cellar,

Carol and Patti and I

And sat in a circle

Around a lit candle,

That my mother would have had

A fit about  if

She had known

About the candle

That we were wasting.

 

Scariest of all was the mud cellar

With just a small path

Across the length of the room

illuminated slightly by a small window

That looked out on the street

But cupboards along the left side

held some of my mother’s canned goods.

It was a dry, hard, packed yellow dirt

Which didn’t go clear to the floor boards

To the living room above.

My little brothers played in here

With small cars and trucks,

Especially when it was raining,

And my father kept his fishing gear

And large wading boots on a hook

Over the mud side.

There were  three rooms  in the cellar

But for some reason

That one room had not been excavated

When the house was built.

One day, Carol and Patti and I

Were playing club

When the telephone rang

Upstairs in the dining room

And I ran upstairs to answer it.

Carol and Patti came bursting through

The cellar door,

Their eyes wide with fright

Both shrieking–

There’s a dead body down there!”

“Down where?” I asked, baffled

“IN THE MUD CELLAR!” they shouted;

“Oh, no there isn’t” I replied

And I headed downstairs,

With the two of them

Cowering behind me.

I went to the mud cellar,

And turned on the small light

In that room

And we all began to laugh.

“Their “dead body” was my father’s

wading boots hanging from a hook.

 

Sandra Lee Smith
(incident occurred around 1949-1950

 

THE BABIES ON BALTIMORE STREET

We lived through the thirties and forties,

The babies on Baltimore Street,

Climbing up trees and on roof tops,

(Without breaking bones–no small feat!)

We grew (or were born) while the War raged,

The babies on Baltimore Street,

Saving paper, and string and whatever

Would help the allies defeat

The “enemies”  somewhere over the ocean,

And bring uncles back home again,

To babies of Baltimore Street, who

Could not quite figure out when.

Our staunchest defender was Grandma,

The Lady on Baltimore Street,

Whose wrath on our foes was a marvel,

And proved that revenge could be sweet;

Her house was our home and our fortress,

She kept us all sheltered from harm,

The stairs and the cellar and back yard

All part of its beckoning charm;

 We carried her bags from the market,

The Babies on Baltimore Street,

And making a trip to the Juice Bar

For a hotdog was really a treat,

On bicycles, scooters, and skates, we

Ventured all over the ‘hoods,

Free to wander all over the place,

Building hideouts and forts in the woods.

Those days have been gone quite a long time,

but recalling the memories is sweet,

And I’m proud to say that I was one

Of the babies on Baltimore Street.

 

Sandra Lee Smith/written for the family cookbook “Grandma’s Favorite” self-published in 2004.

THIS OLD HOUSE

This Old House is made of brick

And has been standing about

A hundred years; It is a

Three-storied house with a big

Basement that had

A wine cellar in one of the rooms,

A cellar where my grandfather

Stored his homemade wine,

Made from the grapes grown

On the hilly back yard.

There are a lot of rooms in

This old house,

Where my grandparents raised

Three children and where,

When their children married,

Apartments were created on the first

And third floors for the married

son or daughter and his or her

Spouse–and in turn,

When children were born,

We all took turns living in

This old  house.

My parents lived in

This old house for nearly

Nine years–until I was almost

Five years old – and my

Parents bought their first

Home of their own.

As much as I loved the House

At 1618 Sutter street, where

We lived for about ten years,

Nothing

Could ever compare with my

Love for this old house, that

Was such a big part of our lives.

When I was still very young,

My grandparents lived on

The second floor of this old house

And I can remember sitting in

A rocking chair by  the kitchen window,

On my grandpa’s lap, watching

my grandma make doughnuts.

After my grandfather passed away,

When I was about eight years old,

My grandmother moved down-

Stairs to the front apartment

And rented out the second floor.

My aunt and uncle lived on the

Third floor until they were able to

Buy a house of their own.

I spent many nights with my

Grandmother in those two

Rooms on the first floor–one

Night a week throughout

Grade School at St Leo’s

And one night a week

Throughout my four years

Of high school.

I have SO many memories

Of my life with my grand-

Mother but one particular

Memory is grandma and

Me having a cup of hot tea

Before bedtime, with saltine

Crackers spread with real butter.

The only other person whose

Memories of grandma and

Her house on Baltimore Avenue

Would be my brother, Jim, who

Is 3 years older than I am,

Although–a younger brother

(George-whom-we-called-Biff)

And our cousin Johnny shared

Some escapades in the summer

Time which the rest of us

Didn’t know about until

Many years later;

This old House holds many

Memories for many people

And now is an Assisted Living

Home for disabled adults.

Since we can no longer live

In this old house perhaps

It is a good home for those

Disabled adults and if

There are any ghosts in

This old house they can

Only be friendly spirits

Of family members who

lived there for so many

Decades.

DEDICATED TO THIS OLD HOUSE

AT 1925 BALTIMORE AVENUE

 

Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

BROTHERS

When they are small, they’re a bother,

Mischievous,  troublesome louts,

They’re into your letters and diaries,

The house always rings with their shouts,

 

Their pockets are filled with those crawly

Live things–like spiders and mice,

With which they proceed to alarm you

(Kid brothers are never quite nice!)

 

Merriment shines in their faces,

Pranks plotted to your chagrin,

Until you, wailing, cry to your mother

“Brothers are almost a sin!”

 

And suddenly, childhood is over,

You and your brothers have grown,

Took part in the world that’s around you,

Married, had kids of your own.

 

And looking backwards, you wonder

what happened to make it this way,

whatever became of the brothers,

You lived with, enduring, each day.

 

How handsomely they stand before you,

How clean and how straight and how tall!

And as loving arms gather round you,

You don’t mind having brothers at all

 

Sandra Lee Smith, 1970s (written after attending my niece

Mindy’s Christening in Cincinnati, for my four brothers