Episode 18 Oakland, 1946-1951

As toddlers we stumble along, pick ourselves up and continue on our way; a prelude to our grownup selves. Life is not perfect, and we learn as we go to learn each lesson as we stumble upon it.

The years after our wedding were eventful learning experiences. Sam continued to work for his father while I learned more about the dentistry business than I wanted to know. We were very frugal and our mode of transportation was the old company pickup truck. It was air conditioned; as I recall, you could watch the pavement go by as you drove along.

I learned to cook by watching our older friends, I even tackled a turkey when entertaining the three great aunties from Canada, sisters of my grandfather; aunt Mae, aunt Lottie and aunt Corinne, who was an opera singer. Grandma always said that was where I got my love of singing.

When the three little ladies came to visit in our apartment, we assumed that they were teetotalers, and got in tea and lemonade. They all took their whiskey straight surprisingly.

When the turkey announced that it had cooked enough, I went to check it and it flew out of the oven and slid across the kitchen floor which had a definite dip in it. One of the aunties grabbed a kitchen towel and picked it up and announced that dinner was served. I loved her forever.

kayti cooking 2

A day’s outing hunting squirrels far out in the country, turned terrifying when an unloaded rifle suddenly went off and shot Dr. A in the knee. The unbelievable difficulty getting back home while covered in his blood has left me forever wary of guns.

Invited to a “real” cocktail party by newly met friends, we were served our first martinis. I remember the violent reaction my stomach gave, and Dr. A’s stomach was also rebelling. I don’t recall how we got home.

With each tiny step along the way, we learned growing up lessons. Sam belonged to the Jr. Chamber of Commerce, which as far as I can see, was simply an excuse for partying. I learned to fend off unwanted attentions from others on their grownup journey. But we gained a group of older life long friends who marshalled our behavior and taught by example.

We were devastated by the passing of our first daughter in 1948, which by necessity had caused us to move out of our little attic apartment and in with my inlaws. I changed jobs, going to work as a typist for Sunset McKee paper company in Oakland.

I have always believed that the answer to people who want to know if you are capable of doing a certain job, is “Yes”, whether you can or not. You only have to know one thing; you can learn anything. Climbing the ladder of “yes”, I was working in the capacity of secretary to the treasurer when I became pregnant with our oldest daughter.

A cousin recently in the real estate business, showed me a few houses to buy. Pulling up in front of a cute place near the Oakland Zoo, I went in the front door and said “We’ll take it!” We shopped and bought furniture for our little nest, which would not be delivered until after the first of the year. Hugely pregnant, we moved in three days before Christmas 1949, and our daughter was born on December 28. Close friends helped us with our move, and we sat on the floor of the kitchen drinking Moscow Mules from copper mugs while the record “Sam’s Song played on the victrola.

I cleaned and polished everyday until an older neighbor came by one day and gave me one of the best lessons; “Ten years from now no one will know if you cleaned your kitchen floor every day, but they will know if you have produced a happy child.” I do not clean every day.

In 1951, a year and a half after our oldest daughter, our tiny red haired daughter was born, the two greatest blessings of my life. We were well on our way to being grown up.


We are moving. First a possibility, then a probability, now a fact. We are leaving this house which has sheltered us for over forty years to be closer to the bosom of our family, and that is an exciting consideration. We will learn to know the newest crop of great-grandchildren as we knew their parents, which distance prevents now.

After all these years we are unused to the process of selling a house. When the sign goes up in front of your house, complete strangers drive by and ask the price. Then realtors from all over town come to look at it while you spend your time away from home allowing them to look at your stuff without being able to let them know how much time, money and love you have put into making this house a home. Most of all, Charlie must be removed along with you because he doesn’t understand what’s going on, and let’s everyone know it.

The people who come to see what is inside can’t imagine the children who played here or the parade of dogs during all that time who have protected us from all intruders. The essence of joyous holidays and parties still permeate the walls, and the friends who have come and gone through the years have left their mark as well. There are still people who say they remember a special occasion party or two. The kitchen and that 45 year old stove were well worked over until even it had to be replaced a year or two ago.

I wonder who will find this house irresistible. Will they love it as we do, watching each tree blossom in the garden, and wait impatiently for each of the fruit trees to yield their bounty? Will they completely replant all the beds with another style? Will they love all the small hidden areas in the large garden? I caution myself to avoid this sort of thinking, because when we moved here so long ago, we changed everything about both house and garden.

It’s hard to remember just what it looked like then as we began to make our mark. Trees were removed and others replanted, lawn disappeared and brick replaced it, each brick lovingly placed by Dr. A. Tons of tomatoes and zucchini came and went through the years. A very large pool and fountain came where grandchildren learned to swim and paddle, and I cooled off on hot summer days. When an earthquake cracked it once too often it was removed and things were redesigned once more.

Will new children play in the small garden house built by our brother-in-law to resemble a house in Carmel? I will miss the hours spent painting the whimsical creatures inside; will they miss me? I will miss taking my morning coffee there while I contemplate a new painting, or having an afternoon tea with Dr. A talking over the day.

Will my painting studio miss me when someone else perhaps uses it as another bedroom? The hours and years I have spent in this crowded and cluttered environment were beyond special. The room was first used by us as a sewing room, with built-in Dutch beds for grandchildren with large toy boxes beneath them. At that time I painted in another room and when we found that grandchildren slept where they wanted to, I moved my stuff in and it became my exclusive domain.

When we built the large “family” room, we bought roller skates for the kids and used it as a skating rink before laying the hand made tiles. Our granddaughter, who visited from London the other day was too young to remember that, but she wandered around remembering all sorts of other things about this house. She quickly checked our her hand print in the cement of the storage shed, then claimed a small needlepoint hanging on the wall of the little house. You never know what children see and love. Our 42 year old grandson referred to our belongings as “our childhood memories.”

There are quite a few of those childhood memories of both Dr. A and me which will need to travel with us. They are the ragged remnants of our roots and our memory.

Times have reached the point when family goes around choosing what they might like to own someday when we are through with it. Moving into another home which is a little smaller means than some belongings will not make the cut. We are told to “take it all” and decide later, and I guess that is the simple way. Taking stock of what we own after seventy years is rather awesome, and unsurprisingly includes perhaps a thousand books, a great many of which are too well-loved to discard.

I am amused by friends who ask in incredulous voices “Do you WANT to move?” No move is made without great contemplation, weighing the pluses and the minuses. In our case the plus side greatly overweighs the minus. It is the process which is bewildering. We are so lucky to have the help of our two daughters who are managing our move long-distance. Both women are in real estate and both have sold their own homes and moved after years of living in one place. Our new home will await us when this house is claimed by its new owner.

It will be fun to write about our new house as we work to make it our home.


“Look what I found Mom! It’s your silver charm bracelet I took five years ago when I left home!” All delivered in a voice of some amazement while my daughter nodded her head in sage acceptance, reminding me of the lapis ring she took from me some years ago. I recall the pair of scissors I brought from my mother’s sewing basket when I married 69 years ago. They long ago lost their edge, but then so have I in the ensuing years. Perhaps they were payback for the beloved stuffed raccoon my mother kept when I left on my honeymoon.

Is this an unconscious method of keeping some part of our childhood or of our past? I think it must be, though I can’t imagine why I took scissors–surely there were other things more useful?

Our Kate, world traveler that she has been as a tourist or traveler, departed today for London as a resident which is an entirely different thing. She called the other day to tell me about the woman in Paris who wore a full length mink while leading her little dog wearing an identical coat. She said “I fit in Paris—I have tried to fit in in London, but it isn’t the same.” Although she has been a frequent visitor of her new home, it will take time to “fit in” as she calls it. A Londoner of my acquaintance says it sometimes takes a long time to feel comfortable in that large labyrinth of a city. I might add that all moves take time to make you comfortable. It’s more than learning which Underground gets you to where you want to go. It’s really about making the people you smile at, smile back. Bon Voyage my Kate. Please don’t make Luca wear a fur coat.