A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And now, back to Tucson

My family moved to Tucson when I was 10 years old and, except for a couple of years in Denver right after my kids were born, I lived there for 30 years. That's where I grew up, got married, had my kids. It's where my grandparents lived and died, where my mother died, and where many of my aunts and uncles lived. It was home.

Now I've been gone for 21 years and when I go back, so much has changed. I still remember where places from my history are, but so much is new. So many places I grew up with have been torn down. Know what really makes you feel old? Remembering a "modern" building going up, only to now see the empty lot because it was "old and falling apart." I mean, what does that say about me!!!!

This last trip we drove past my grandmother's and great grand-mother's houses. Lots of nostalgia, lots of sadness. The photo below is my grandparent's house. It was a few blocks from the University of Arizona and such a charming neighborhood at the time. Now it's been stuccoed, all the front yard is gone, and there is a wall around the property. The little building to the left is a little one-bedroom apartment where I lived with my girlfriend when we were in college.

Here is the house I remember! The front yard was a family gathering spot. We sat there every Fourth of July and watched the U of A fireworks display. We had Easter Egg hunts on the lawn. It's where my grandparents had their marijuana garden. It's where we had all our big family dinners. The yard had orange trees, loquat trees, even a pomegranate tree. Now it has gravel. My grandparents were so proud of their house and yard. I have so many photos of family members visiting from Chicago and standing by an orange tree - usually with a cowboy hat on.

Here are my grandmother and grandfather enjoying their front yard.

How I miss them and those days. Surrounded by family, greasy Italian food, lots of laughter, and the feeling of Tucson in the late 1950's and early 1960's. My great-grandmother lived less than a mile away from my grandparents. She also lived one block from the school where I went to 5th grade so I would go over to her house often. Grandma was the quintessential old Italian woman. 4' 10" on a good day, constantly wearing an apron, gray hair in a bun, nylons rolled down to just below her knees, that one gold tooth that seems to be mandatory in old Italian women, and an accent so thick you had to really concentrate to understand her. Here is Grandma and this is her house today. The front section used to be a porch. There was a little wire fence around the front yard and a small gate that we would go through.

This is where we would go every Christmas Eve to see her Nativity display and be with family. As you can see, this is a very small house. But there would usually be 50 or so people inside! Many smoking, all laughing and talking, and, of course (we are Italian, after all) everyone eating. The back yard was almost as big as the house. There was also a little guest studio in the back. Grandma has an amazing garden, fed daily by coffee grounds and egg shells. And we would have lots of family picnics in her yard. I'm so glad to have these wonderful memories. I'm sad that almost everyone in these photos is gone. I wish my kids could have known my grandparents and great-grandmother - and Tucson in the "old days." They would have loved every minute of it. Hopefully we're creating good memories for them that someday will be their "good old days."


namaste said...

sandi, you have a beautiful family history. i am so glad to read your stories on the blog.



ira said...

Your children and the new generations are very lucky that they would get to know all these stories through your blog.
They're invaluable!

Luz said...

Lovely memories and photos! Nice blog. I shall pass by again.

Nikki said...

Sandi, I lived in Tucson for almost a year. I am an Arizona fan and feel at home there more than I do in Utah where I grew up. I plan on being a snowbird when my son moves out and starts making grandbabies for me. Thank you for sharing such wonderful pictures and you are right the before pictures of the house are so much more inviting and warm...probably because of the people in the photos! priceless! :)N


Wow! I hesitate to go back to the places that I once loved b/c everytime I do, I'm disappointed!

Those pictures are fabulous! The trees were phenomenal!!

Desert Diva said...

What a wonderful family heritage and great photos. I'm still waiting to hear about your "book deal." Seriously, you could do it!