My earliest memories go back to the house my parents lived in when I was born, at 818 “S” St. in Fresno CA. We were Greeks on the edge of Armenian Town. I don’t quite remember living there, since we moved when I was about two years old. But I almost do. I remember being at the house, although I think it was when my parents were going back and fixing it up to sell when I was about three and half years old.
I remember the look of the old wooden house, the wood floors, the old door knobs, the pulley clothes line that stretched from a window to the far reaches of the back yard. I remember the feel of the hot, powdery dirt in the Fresno summer, and the way it smelled when the water from the bib fell onto it, making dusty explosions that turned to mud. I vividly recall, even now, the smell of the cellar we retreated to for lunch once the sun was high and hot. We sat at a card table and ate in near darkness, the only light streaming in from the cellar door at the top of the stairs. There was a certain musty smell of damp concrete that I encounter every few years, and when I do I am transported back to that cellar more fully than any sci-fi invention could ever achieve.
I toddled around the front yard and wandered into the yard next door. There I encountered the old Armenian woman who lived there. She was very old and bent over, wrinkled and gray. In my memory, she was wandering around her garden tending to her plantings, she wore nothing above the waist and her breasts hung low and flat. She spoke to me in Armenian and I understood nothing of what she said to me. I stood and stared up at her, a little afraid, but not too much, perplexed by the sound of this language. She smiled as she spoke and chuckled around the edges. My mother called and I turned to go, running through the powdery dirt that burned my feet. The smell of Sycamores wafted by as I scrambled up the front steps.