Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Willie and Dad

This picture of my father (right) and his mother’s first cousin, William Saroyan, was taken in 1970 during one of Willie’s visits to our house in Dinuba, California. The window behind his back is the one that looked east from the eating area in our kitchen. The window between Willie and Dad was one of three in my brothers’ bedroom, formerly a carport. The open area in front of the bare mulberry tree is where we used to box raisins each fall, and play baseball and basketball during the summer. After a heavy winter rain (average rainfall in Dinuba is about eleven inches), the whole space would turn into a shallow lake, and the water would stand for days on end.

There is a lot more I could say about this picture, the two men in it, the house, and its farm surroundings. The fact is, I’ve written many thousands of words on the subject already.

The house and farm are no longer in the family.

Image: William Saroyan and Albert Michaelian, 1970 (click to enlarge).

In the Forum: “homesickness and something more.”


Joseph Hutchison said...

I love those old color photos, William—my family album's full of them. But how sad to read the sentence, "The house and farm are no longer in the family." Maybe not, of course—not sad at your end, I mean. But it reminds me of something I just read in Walt Whitman's America about the impact on Whitman of his "ever-struggling father [being] forced to sell off the last of his landholdings in West Hills, snapping all direct links to the stem family of the past. A main theme of Whitman's early fiction would be the violent breaking up of families...." This was in 1836, just prior to "the longest and deepest depression of the pre-Civil War period," from 1837-1843. I wonder if we're not entering such a period now. Maybe some young poet will turn the current and coming misery to good account.

William Michaelian said...

In fact, I think that’s inevitable.

Meanwhile, I can only hint here at the significance of that line, “The house and farm are no longer in the family.” Without a doubt, the place where I grew up exerts a profound influence on what I write and how I write it — not only in terms of style and content, but in how I approach writing physically and mentally. Another influence, one every bit as powerful, is the fact that I can’t go back. Of course, the situation is common enough. I’m fortunate to have had such a home, and to know what home is. Leaving for Oregon back in 1987 was a difficult decision, and a necessary one to make. But I’m here now, I’m still with family, and there is even some evidence that I’m actually living in the present.

ALeks said...

Ahummm....Im still here,on your site,I found this sweet post about your dad and now i see there is a mulberry tree in your life,why Im not surprised?! Beautifully written and lovely photo.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Aleksandra. I’m glad you’re looking at some of the older entries. Yes, that mulberry tree was an old friend. And it grew much larger later on.