After World War II my father took a two-year agricultural course at the Northern Branch of the College of Agriculture, later to become the University of California at Davis. My sister-in-law was a UC Davis professor for a long time and still lives in the town, and our daughter lived there for six years while getting an advanced degree from the school. So it’s a place with which our family has a long history.
Now my son-in-law Nate is employed by the university and that branch of the family is the latest to settle in. After living in Maryland for eleven years, just last week Pearl and the children completed their cross-country camping trip along with dog Jack, and returned to California where they had all been born (the humans, that is).
We’ve been anticipating this event for most of a year, and when school was out and they had set out on their journey, I followed their progress on paper maps with occasional text-message updates from the travelers. As soon as I got the message, “We’re here!” I began to calculate how soon I might make the drive over; I hadn’t seen most of the children for almost a year, since Kate’s wedding.
They arrived Thursday afternoon, and everyone seemed to be welcoming me to come, so two days later I pulled up in front of the house that previously I’d seen only in pictures, and as I got out of the car I caught the smells familiar to my childhood, which are always so comforting to me. Davis is in the Central Valley, where I also grew up, albeit 200+ miles to the south, and the warm air and the earth and fields of fast-growing corn or alfalfa or tomatoes all combine to make for a distinctive environment.
Even though I am back home now where we have that marine influence that makes for a very different climate, it seems I can almost get a whiff of the Valley air by seeing this picture taken from the balcony, looking east toward Sacramento over a plantation of sunflowers. A loaded lemon tree on the right and wisteria encroaching give a hint of how eager the plant life is.
I think I started on that first evening, to help Pearl unpack boxes that the movers had stacked all over the house. In any case, we spent hours on that task during my stay, and certainly didn’t finish it. Often I would unroll a sheaf of large papers that had encased some item, and I’d set the bowl or whatever on the kitchen counter for her to put away; then I would smooth out the paper and eventually add it to the growing stack in the entry. I brought home some of these papers, hoping to reuse them myself for starting fires or to place in front of young children with crayons.
It was amusing to see what was in some of the packages. We took to guessing what was inside, by the shape and the weight. Often the contents of one bundle were more haphazard than could be accounted for, as with a barbeque fork packed with two pencils and a pen; some unbreakables were heavily protected with multiple layers. The most surprising find for me was wrapped up all by itself; a cereal bowl containing two dry Weetabix, covered in plastic wrap.
Their new house has a swimming pool, and the children were swimming every day. A screened patio is right off the pool, where we ate some meals in the style of Sunset Magazine. Monday afternoon I took pictures of Maggie doing water stunts for a while, and was pleased when I got warm enough that my desire to cool off overcame my usual inertia in regard to swimming. I was glad I’d brought my suit.
The pool is kept clean by a saltwater system, so there is not the destructive chlorine to rot one’s swimsuit or destroy hair. Several redwood trees shade one end of the pool and so far this keeps the water cool enough to be refreshing even on 100+° days such as occurred while I was there.
The last evening of my stay, Pearl and I took a walk with a longtime friend and former roommate of Pippin, who still lives in the area. She introduced us to one of her favorite routes on the west side of town and we walked and talked for an hour. The light wasn’t good enough for most of my pictures to turn out well; on my next visit I’d like to do that walk in the morning. As it’s less than two hours away, I should be able to accomplish a visit another time or two while it’s still summer.