reported this potential treasure trove to the family. On an October Sunday we
piled in the Buick with empty onion sacks, baskets and paper bags to scoop up nuts
and get rich. Parked off the highway they lay on the ground before us, their
large golden, green and black husks scattered everywhere, as if plump eggs. I exclaimed.
“It’s an Easter egg hunt!”
While cars zoomed past, Mom kept the
two youngest away from the traffic while she gathered near the road ditch. Dad, I and the 2 older siblings rushed about
gathering the easy pickings among the golden fallen leaves.
Picking them up, however, we
discovered their thick husks were messy and fell apart in our hands. True to
the trees name they stained our hands black. Back home whacking the tough
shells with hammers and bricks after removing the rotting husks soon
disillusioned dreams of wealth and a Singer sewing machine.
Mom, with blackened hands, exasperated
after removing the small amount of meat once the shell finally cracked open
took her desperation out on me. Squatting with stained black hands before her
pile of nuts she muttered toink in
Tagalog then worked her way up to gaga
ka, which is stupid girl. Then she arose, stood before me, shouted and
belittled me for my nutty idea while my siblings egged her on.
Crying I ran to the bathroom
ashamed. It was Dad who came to my defense. He laughed, threw the piles of nuts
in a heap in the back yard, coaxed me out of the bathroom, stopped my lamenting
with a hug and told me I was still his little swan. It was the only time until
my wedding day he hugged me. I washed my black hands and he drove me in the
Buick to the San Carlos, Sears. There he bought me the Singer sewing machine,
saying it was for my next birthday, the only birthday present he ever bought
I made my wedding dress with it and still have and use it, it and its memories the true treasure gleamed from the walnut trees.
The throaty rumble of the Chevy's V-8 manifold echoed against the tree trunks. Car light beams commingled with their leafy canopy to create flickering shadows. The eerie shadow images fit the uncertainty of our beginning new lives as man and wife.
Will my honeymoon turn into disillusionment? Will my husband hug me like Dad when I do something stupid or scold like Mom? Does he really love me? Will we have kids? Will we grow old together? Who will outlive the other? Will he find another? Will he divorce me? Will he drive away in the evening to meet another?
I ran down the possibilities without
answers and concluded humming the lyrics from Mary Poppins:
"Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be."
He heard me humming, smiled and we sang the words out of tune together. With the last repeated stanza I switched to praying the car wouldn’t break down. It never occurred to me I would betray him but I did, over and over.
Past Gilroy, the furthermost of our combined
prior travels, I switched from remembering the past, wondering about our future
and settled down to travel’s blank reflection as we passed the dark country
side interrupted by the small agricultural towns of Salinas, Soledad, Paso
Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.