In 1918 my grandparents, Jack and Annie Shannon came home. Home for both of them was southern San Luis County. This family event is the linchpin of our story.

When I was a boy we lived in the kitchen. Our little house, built at the turn of the century was the heart of the home. As were most homes built at the time it featured none of the devices we take for granted today. No insulation, no central heat, and no weatherstripping. Small houses were the norm before the war and ours, originally just three rooms had slowly been added to over time. To get to the back bedroom you had to pass through each of the other rooms. Porch, kitchen, living room, my parents bedroom, bathroom and finally, my room, a sunny room with large windows in which I imagined my future life as boys will do.

What my brothers and I learned at the kitchen table has shaped our lives. The japansese philosopher Masonabu Fukuoka has said,”The simple hearth of the small farm is the true center of our universe.” This quote describes the experience of family all over the world, something we all have in common. I don’t know of any kids that I grew up with don’t share this experience and to this day I can see them as they were.

The photo above, taken in 1920 at my great-grandparents house on west Main St in Santa Maria shows my father and my uncle Jack with two friends. My father George steers the trike on the right and my uncle Jack, his older brother by two years stands behind him. My grandparents lived with Annie’s parents for a time until they could move onto Annie’s ranch just south of Arroyo Grande.

The kitchens in these houses weave through the narrative of our lives and form the foundation of these stories.


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