Netty and I had neighbors over for dinner last night. One couple for the first time, another whom we’ve known now for a couple of years. There was some exchanging of backgrounds…jobs, schooling, kids, even a bit of past dreams and the hopeful future. Perhaps that’s why I woke up this morning in the midst of memories–how we hold them, how we share them, how we relive and refashion them over time. There were so many swimming in my brain, but for some reason one kept rising to the surface as I lay in bed.

Many years ago when I was at UCLA, I went regularly to the placement center looking for odd jobs. The bulletin board listed a gardener position for a house in the nearby affluent community of Bel Air. It was odd to see such a listing since the huge mansions and luxury homes that make up Bel Air were typically managed by landscaping services or an on-site groundskeeper. Who would request a college kid to come mow their lawn on these grand estates? I pulled the card down, was given the address, and drove to the East Gate of the Bel Air Estates entering on Bellagio Road.

I found the address easily enough, though the overgrown hedges hid the house from view. I rang the speaker buzzer. A moment later the shaky voice of an old lady asked who I was and the gates swung open. I walked along a sandy drive that led to a broad courtyard of cobblestones with a central fountain that was stagnant with lilly pads, buzzing with dragon flies and redolent with the smell of a country pond.

Beyond the fountain was a staggeringly large Mediterranean home. Faded glory were the first words that came to my mind. I felt as if I’d just entered the film set for Sunset Boulevard. This was obviously a grand home from some grand past that had fallen on hard times.

The front door opened. It wasn’t Norma Desmond, but nearly. She was ancient, or at least she seemed so to my twenty-one year old eyes. She was in her robe and slippers, emerald silk I presumed.

“Hello young man,” she said sweetly, “Have you come to care for the property?”

I said I had, although just a brief glance at the immense lawn, pool and pool house, the overgrown wisteria bushes, the wild bougainvillea and ranging fruit trees, not to mention the riotous rose garden and enormous koi pond out back made her question and my answer ridiculous. Nevertheless, she led me down steps to the rear of the property where the yard tools were stored.

I wouldn’t call it a tool shed that emerged from the towering fig ivy. It was much larger, a good-sized whitewashed barn. She turned a rusty handle and pulled the doors open. When I stepped inside, the world of her memories flooded over me.

There, high on the walls, neatly pinioned and arranged, was antique sporting gear from a bygone era. Classic tennis rackets with their orange-tinged patina, wooden skis and leather boots.

There were croquet sets and cricket paddles, well-worn and monogrammed polo mallets.

There were bamboo fishing rods and hand-made lures.

A basket of footballs and helmets, hand sewn baseballs and wooden bats.

All around me was the luxurious sports history of this old woman standing next to me.

I pictured her glorious ski vacations with her wool-blazered husband in San Maritz or Breckenridge, the elegant ladies tennis matches with mint juleps by her pool.

There must have been Sunday golf at the country club with her well-dressed children and nanny, polo mornings at Will Rogers Polo Fields. 

On and on the images and fantasies swirled around me as I stood there with her on that afternoon forty years ago.

Oh, the job didn’t last more than a month or so. My feeble efforts had no effect on the work that had to be done to bring the estate back from nature’s grasp. Just as time itself has had no effect in dulling the memories trapped in those artifacts and released simultaneously that day in my mind.

Like all memories, they are timeless or they wouldn’t be memories at all. Both real and imagined, large and small, lush or spare, these refracted images are a reflection of ourselves…burning brightly, illuminating the moments of our life.


One Response to The Moments Of Our Life

  1. Thank you for your stories, Frank.

    Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.

    …and in the language of our fathers, Wesołych Świąt !

    Andy Golebiowski

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.