Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Building Camelot

Building Camelot

The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there's simply not a more congenial spot
for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot.

If you had visited my grandparents’ property in Springville fifteen years ago, my grandmother might have challenged you to a game of cards or dominoes, and my grandfather might have taken you on a tour of his trees.

“I planted this apricot here about three years ago,” He’d say. “It should start giving fruit any time now.”

Or, he’d say, patting another tree’s bark so hard that the tree would shake, “Well now, this peach tree gave us a lot of peaches last year, but there weren’t many blossoms this year so there won’t be many peaches.”

My grandpa planted nearly forty trees on their two acres of hillside. At the bottom of the hill, there was a pond with lots of bluegill, some bass, and a few catfish. There was usually a dog, sometimes a cat, and once, while my sister and I lived with them, a pygmy goat.

In short, for a child like me, my grandma and grandpa’s property in Springville was just short of heaven. The place was beautiful, but it was really my grandparents and their gracious, welcoming spirit that made it wonderful. I always thought of them as who I wanted to be, and if I could live anywhere when I grew up, it would be there.

Once, my grandmother mailed me a sunflower head that my grandfather had raised. I hadn’t known that you could grow things like sunflowers and actually eat them. My grandfather always liked sunflowers because they were cheerful and hearty, and because interesting birds would come around their property just to eat the seeds.

My grandma has called their time in Springville, “her Camelot.” They were friends with all the neighbors on their hill, and despite my grandfather’s bouts with cancer and heart trouble, the ten years they spent there were some of their best.

They didn’t need some love triangle between Guinevere and Lancelot to help them lose their Camelot, though. My grandfather simply got too old to care for the property anymore. My parents convinced them to sell the place and move closer to them. For the first five years, they lived in a house in Bakersfield, and my grandfather planted trees and sunflowers and vegetables there, too. Then, that got to be too much again. They moved into a very nice pre-fabricated house behind my parent’s house, and they’ve been living there for the past five years.

Again, my grandfather planted trees, vegetables, strawberries, and of course, sunflowers. But every year, he just got a little weaker, and a little more confused. Sometimes he didn’t understand why they weren’t in Springville.

He’d say, “Juanita, why are we living in this trailer? When are we going home?”

Or sometimes he’d say, “Let’s check out of this place and go home today.” My grandmother would have to explain again that this is where they lived now, and he’d just sort of nod his head sadly and accept it.

He passed away a few weeks ago. Many of their friends and neighbors from Springville came to the memorial service to say goodbye, and to comfort my grandmother. They remembered me from when I was a kid, and graciously hugged me and said it was good to see me. They sat with my grandmother and talked and laughed with her, and I knew she was remembering happier times.

The day after the funeral, I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to curl up in bed and stare at a wall for the whole day. I felt such a sense of loss that this beautiful dream, this idea I had of my grandparents- was coming to an end.

But life progressed, and I had church to attend, laundry to do, and food to make. I muddled through in a dark mood.

For some reason, I thought about sunflowers- about how my grandfather had liked them, and seemed to always have some growing.

Who will plant the sunflowers now? I thought. Which is when I realized- I will. I can plant sunflowers, and tell people about my trees, and invite people to play games. I am blessed that my husband and I live on about 15 acres of a hill, belonging to his parents where we are building our own house- and there are gardens and fruit trees.

Even though my grandfather is gone, and that house in Springville was sold long ago- I will build my own Camelot.


  1. Yes your Camelot is not just there. You have to turn it into YOUR Camelot. Sorry about your grandfather. We live in a retirement community but luckily we can have a flower garden. And of course Maya had to plant SunFlowers. A girls dream flower.

  2. What a blessing to have once lived in Camelot!

  3. Sandra, thanks for this. It was a beautiful time. Most people never get anything like they did. I am so happy that you will keep his memory alive with sunflowers.

  4. Run boy, run. Tell them there once was a Camelot.
    I remember Camelot. What a glorious site. All you said was true and more. You build your Camelot Sandra. You and Anthony build it right.
    I cannot help but cry at the memories of what once was. Wasn't it fine to be related to those who created a Camelot?