We lived almost exactly one mile from the heart of Auburn California on Palm Avenue between the old Highway 49 and the new, broader Highway 49; the highway that connects Auburn with Grass Valley, both towns formed during the Gold Rush of 1849. The city limit line ran right down the center of Palm Avenue, so we lived just a few feet inside the "city"; really a town of about 3000. Palm tress, unusual in Auburn, used to line our road, but through the years some fell, some were cut down by progress, and now they were scattered; one here, then a quarter mile, then a cluster of a half-dozen, then more for a space. As a small child I used to imagine that Palm trees were giant one-legged ostriches, now petrified, like ancient prehistoric birds.
The house I grew up in was built the year before I was born for thirty five hundred dollars. It sat on the northeast corner of my Grandfather Eisleys' property, a ten acre segment now occupied mostly by my Uncle Henry's nursery, aptly named Eisleys' Nursery, but also containing our one acre strip and the original Eisley ranch home where my Mom and Uncle Henry and three other aunts and uncles grew up.
My Grandma Eisley lived in a newer house, now that Grandpa was gone, which was situated just 50 feet from our house. Which meant that anytime we went anywhere, or did anything, Grandma knew about it.
We drove to town a couple times a week to go shopping for groceries or clothes, and to pay bills at PG&E, the telephone company, and so forth. My folks paid for everything in cash; no paper or plastic substitutes; and in person. Which was kind of nice, because that way we made the rounds and got well acquainted with bank clerks, secretaries, and various and sundry other locals.
I don't believe that the trip to town; that entire mile in and mile back; was ever made without Grandma. She always wanted to go, and Mom was always afraid of hurting her feelings if we didn't ask her, so we always asked her, and it always took three times as long as it would have taken had we not asked her.
It was kind of a ritual. Each participant in the ritual said the same thing every time, and this went on for the better part of 20 years.
"We need to go to town," Mom would say. "I need to get some Nucoa, and Garland needs some new cords, and I'd sure like to get that PG&E bill paid we got today in the mail."
"Let's go!" my big brother Garland and I would respond in unison.
"I'll start the car" was Daddy's line.
"Do you suppose we ought to ask Mother?" Mom would always ask, as though it were an open question.
"But it takes sooooo long that way," Garland or I would groan.
"But if she knows we've gone without her, she'll be hurt," Mom would predictably counter.
Daddy was always gone by then, bringing the car from the basement-garage below around front.
"Alright," Garland would say in a pained voice. "I'll go ask her." Garland was always nicer than me.
And the answer was always the same.
"Sure. I'll go. Will I need my galoshes?"
"No, Grandma, it's July!"
"Well bring my lap blanket just in case there's a draft."
Once in the car, another ritual began.
"Whew, it's sure hot in here!" Garland or Daddy or I would say.
"But we can't have a draft on Mother," Mom would reply.
"Don't you want this lap robe over your knees, boys?" asked Grandma, as she spread it over our knees and tried to tuck it in around our waist.
"No, Grandma, it's July!"
"Well July or not, you have to watch out for a draft, you know. There's pneumonia going around these days, boys."
In retrospect, I guess Grandma was right. I'm over half a century now, and I've never had any problem with the parts of my body covered by that lap robe, and I don't believe Garland has either. Maybe I should have covered my head with it. Maybe I wouldn't be bald today.
Didn't seem to do as much good for her, however. Old age seemed to take its natural course, and the lap robe didn't seem to run much interference for it.
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Duane Shinn is the author of the popular free 101-week online e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions- Intelligent Piano Lessons For Adults Only! " with over 84,400 current subscribers.
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