Small Grenades

by jkatejohnston

3 November 2014

Dear Max,

On Saturday I left Sacramento at four, and by six thirty or so the sun was coming up, and I got off I-5 and turned West toward Paso Robles. It’s beautiful country, high desert-like, and it had rained hard the night before. There were clouds of all shapes, rain falling far away, the sloping plain lit up, and the clear-cut shadow of the little rental car running along beside me. Then up into hills and oak trees as you get closer to Paso, classic California landscape. I’d bought a huge coffee at the town where I got off I-5, so that was great. I turned off my audio book.

In Santa Maria I got off on Main and gassed up. Then, instead of getting back on 101, I took long straight roads across farmland and then on to Foxen Canyon road to Santa Ynez. My big sister and I used to ride our bikes from Ballard to Santa Maria on that road, and driving it now, I was impressed by our young selves. A lot of what used to be ranch land was now vineyard and winery. But the small boarded up white church where we used to stop for lunch is the same. (No wine tasting there yet.) The Diamond T is still the Diamond T. It rained hard a few times, then bright sun, clouds moving, black cows with calves nursing. I thought of the last time I drove that road. I picked up Grandma at Arbor View and drove her to my parents’ house, Grandma pointing out all the places along the way where Grandpa did the pump work and both of us saying again and again how lucky we were, such a beautiful day.

I stopped the car, and as I got out I saw myself in the side mirror when I wasn’t expecting to. I didn’t have my mirror-face expression on. I looked happy and astonishingly old. It was surprising.

6 November 2014

Dear Max,

Home, and it’s absurd how happy I am to be back. Enzo in the bath, singing:

Happy Birthday to me,
I’m a hundred and three,
But I still go to preschool
And I want my mommy.
My mommy’s at work.
She fired a jerk.
She hired a monkey
To do my homework.
The very next day
The monkey said, “Hey!”
He ripped out my eyeballs
And threw them away.


We got some guavas from a friend’s tree. Enzo: “They look like small grenades.”


Enzo: “Me and Dahlia made an arrangement to have a fight.”

Teresa: “Not at school.”

Me: “Dahlia and I.”

I hasten to add: Enzo doesn’t get in fights, and Dahlia is one of his pals.


My mom gave me some old-fashioned padded coat hangers with crocheted covers. One even has a pom-pom at the base of the curved metal part that hooks over the clothes rail. Imagine a wooden clothes-hanger wearing a tight-fitting sweater.

Enzo [examining them] “Really?”

Me: “Yeah, they’re nice, like for dresses and stuff.”

Enzo: “Do you think we should even let these in the house?”