Every once in awhile, an old friend I haven’t seen or heard from in years will stumble across my website and get in touch with me by e-mail. Like me, most of the people I knew long ago have left our old hometown, Dinuba, California, long ago. And some of us still go back, if not regularly, then at least for weddings and funerals. I myself haven’t been to Dinuba for a good three years, though I have written about the place many times and think about it often, especially as it existed during my childhood and growing-up years.

There are also several friends who didn’t leave. Some found no reason to do so, while others wanted to leave, but couldn’t, or felt they couldn’t, because they didn’t want to face the task of starting over somewhere else. When we left Dinuba, it was because we didn’t want our children to grow up breathing the San Joaquin Valley’s filthy air. Moving to Salem, Oregon, was a simple decision that caused a giant upheaval in our lives. We came here as refugees. And we did have to start over, and it hasn’t been easy. But seeing the children grow up healthy has made up for the difficulties we’ve faced.

The voices from my past are wonderful to hear. They make me stop and think about where I’ve been and the things I’ve done. They also make me think about the many things I haven’t done. It’s frightening, in a way. And of course the feelings go both ways. The old friends are no longer the same as when I knew them. Life has changed them. In some cases they have become more like their parents — not really a bad thing, because most of the parents I remember worked hard, took good care of their families, and tried to make Dinuba a decent place to live. They made their mistakes, as all parents do, but they cared.

In a comforting way, my old friends are also exactly who they used to be, despite their thinning, graying hair, sagging waistlines, and changed opinions. They are still the kids with whom I played ball, pitched watermelons, worked in the vineyard, and went camping. They are the kids who wept openly when one of our number, a gifted artist, died of cancer at the age of eighteen.

Luckily for all of us, the passage of time has not erased the hours we spent running through the sprinklers on the vast playground at Grand View School, or of knee injuries sustained while playing basketball, or of teachers who had no business whatsoever standing up before a class. It has not erased the sticky feeling of trouble shared, or the satisfying results of jokes perpetrated upon pompous hometown hypocrites.

So many memories, from so long ago. Memories that illuminate the present and help keep us on course. Memories that will inevitably fade, but perhaps not until they find expression in the face of a grandchild, or in the wise voice of someone else who was there. Ridiculous memories. Sad memories. Beautiful memories. Memories so real that they still surface in dreams and tell us to come home.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

Main Page
Author’s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Collected Poems
Early Short Stories
Armenian Translations
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Highly Recommended
Let’s Eat
Favorite Books & Authors
Useless Information
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts

Top of Page
Old Notes
Current Entry