Getting Through Customs

February 26th, 2020


We were headed for San Francisco but first we had to clear customs at LAX. The line was long and the children were impatient and tired, yet excited to be back in the United States.  Two years can be a long time. In 1972 the system was quite simple: just rollers on long tables to move our boxes, luggage and individual small private cases containing each child’s treasures. It was our turn and the official with a stern face and a big badge looked at our assortment.


It would be a challenge to go through everything and we wondered where he would begin. We could see that the bags of the passengers in front of us in line were being closely examined even exposing their personal items. We tried to be patient as we waited for him to begin.  Chris was fidgeting and reached for my hand. Alice was serious as she watched. David, the teenager with arms folded, observed the whole process with a critical eye.  Donald put his hand on his small case as if to protect it. After a minute, which seemed like an hour, the customs official began by asking where we had been and how long we had been gone. I said, “We’ve been in Zambia for almost two years. My husband is stationed in Ndola and has six more months of duty.  It was necessary for us to return early.”


“Now, to examine your bags,” he said as he eyed everything. I wondered how I would be able to repack the boxes, which were bulging and held together with strong twine tied in tight knots. The man reached for Donald’s case and Donald reluctantly removed his hand. The catch released easily and as the lid was raised, feathers floated into the air.


An astonished look flashed on the man’s face as he quickly closed the case, engaging the catch. He smiled at Donald; then in a stern authoritative voice, “You can pass on.” He signed a paper and handed it to me.  A few feathers floated above our luggage as it rolled down the long table.


Happy the Unadjusted for Theirs is the Kingdom

December 24th, 2019

The adjusted cannot hear.
Mediocrity, passivity plug their ears.

Hollow people, not feeling
or finding themselves, let
Madison Avenue dream their dreams
decide their diets and deodorants.
Credit cards, computers chart
their course, conformity.

To adjust is to assent to what
should not be accepted.
to stand aside as forces surge
to war, not knowing or feeling
‘till brother lies mutilated.
Mankind, emasculated, cries Mercy.

Alas for the comfortable, the satisfied.
The Beatitudes condemn conformity.
The unadjusted person questions
the complacent, commonplace, corrupt.

Happy those who know who they are
and refuse to submit to uniformity.
They will belong to themselves.

Happy those who do not wear masks,
who let others see them as they are.
They will find Truth.

Happy those who cannot accept
a social order where some are feasting
while others beg for crumbs.
The new order of love is theirs.

Happy those whose lives
are disturbed by cries for mercy.
They will be shown mercy.

Happy those who weep
and do not close their hearts
to the misery of the world.
They will become human.

Happy those who work
for justice, who put their lives
on the line for social change.
They will find fulfillment.

Happy those willing to face
the mob for what is right.
They will become strong

Happy those who help
brother to love brother.
They are children of God.

You will be happy when
you leave the crowd.
ignoring gossip, insinuations.

The prophets before you
stood alone, jeered by the crowd.
They would not submit
to the world of their day.

Rejoice: persons who own themselves
receive the great reward.

meaning is not static

November 9th, 2019

meaning changes over time
like water in a brook
that becomes a raging river
or flows into a lake behind a dam
or trickles into a desert
and disappears into the sand

some things that change perhaps
are love or faith or family
what about community or neighbor
this is not a quiz and this morning
I am not asking myself these questions

actually I am thinking about my garden
full of weeds, the grass has grown so long
it will challenge the lawnmower
the overgrown shrubs, the thirsty plants
look forlornly to the sky for rain

I am looking at the piles of papers
on my desk, unfinished poems,
stories I want to write
time fleeting, what does life mean
when I waste the days
and does it really matter


When I was Twenty-three  

October 31st, 2019

When I was Twenty-three

I wore a watermelon pink, wool dress

that fell just below my knees

it was slim, with a slit at my neckline

I can’t forget my black felt hat

that let me tilt the very wide brim

so, I could peak from under it

in a very seductive way

but only in my mirror

when I think of this now

I am filled with happiness

but looking at a picture

is not the same as remembering

Devil’s Slide

May 29th, 2019

From our house in Pedro Point, we could look across the bay, along the beach and across a fertile valley where Portuguese farmers grew artichokes. Just beyond was a hill where sheep grazed on wild grasses. Our house faced north and looked down on the two-lanehighway that connected the little coast towns to San Francisco twenty miles away. To the south, the road cut through the mountain behind us to reach Montara and Half Moon Bay. The narrow road was close to the edge of Devil’s Slide, a rocky cliff that dropped straight down to the open ocean.

One Sunday afternoon after a few drinks, my Dad decided it was time to teach me to drive. He told my little brothers Joe and Pete and my sister Mary to climb in the car. He opened the door on the driver’s side and told me to sit behind the wheel. In those days, there was no need for a learner’s permit. I climbed in and sat down.

I remembered a few things Dad had shown me the week before; so, I did some practice exercises, going through the five gears from neutral and low to high. With a few directions I was, able to back up and shift into low for the short distance to the corner where I stopped. We were high on the hill with a steep road down to the cross-road below. Dad said, “Go ahead. Keep it in low. You’ll be all right.”

I gripped the wheel and headed slowly down. I wanted to close my eyes but knew I had to keep them open as the road was narrow with ditches on either side.  When we reached the bottom, I stepped hard on the brake and let out a loud sigh. The kids began to laugh; they didn’t realize how close they were to disaster; Dad never should have put them in the car with me.

When we reached the main road, Dad said, “Turn right,” and I wanted to argue because that was the way to Devil’s Slide. He said it again, so I turned the car onto the highway. Suddenly cars were honking as they passed me. The kids were yelling and Dad had fallen asleep. I kept my eyes glued to the white line on the road; I didn’t want to see the steep drop-off close to the pavement on the right side.  I knew there was no place to stop and say, “I don’t want to drive.”

Finally, I reached a safe place to park. Dad was still asleep. I needed to find the courage to get back on the road and go home. The lane going north was next to the mountain and the car wouldn’t be near the deep cliff by the ocean. If I stayed in low gear and tried not to listen to the honking cars and screaming kids; if I tried to put Devil’s Slide out of my mind; I might be all right.  After all these years, I don’t remember what happened next or how we got home. Probably when Dad realized the situation and sobered up enough, he drove us home. I don’t know, but somehow, we did get home.

Patricia Hernan Grube
March 6, 2017; May 21, 2019










At Grandma Gazilda’s House

May 8th, 2019

Drapes of rough monk’s cloth
were held by heavy rings
on twisted metal rods.
Black daggers at each end
kept  everything from sliding off.
Thin lines like spider webs

on the unbleached fabric
made a dramatic background
for the rusty orange and brown
geometric design. My muslin
curtains also slide back
and forth on black metal.

On a bureau, was a sculpture,
probably pewter, of a knight
in full armor. He and his horse
both gleamed like silver, both
at attention, ready for action,
sword unsheathed.

Gazilda’s carpet was a garden
of flowers with a border that kept
the blossoms where they belonged.
I lay there every afternoon at five
to hear my favorite program
“coming to you from radio station

KTAR, atop the Heard Building
in Phoenix Arizona”.
I was enthralled by the exploits
of Little Orphan Annie, a girl
of courage and imagination. She
and the knight, both seekers of justice.

Looking back I think that Annie
and Don Quixote have been models
for my life. I have no interest
in Miss Muffet, who was easily
scared by a spider. Although
I did, and still do like curds and whey.

© Patricia Grube
May 3, 2010

Family Story

April 17th, 2019


THE FOUR OF US: Patty, Mary, Joe and Pete (1929)

When this picture was taken we lived in Phoenix. A few months after I entered the first grade at the Capital School, I had the measles and the other three caught them from me. The illness caused Pete to contract double pneumonia again. The house on Willow I remember very well; I can even draw the floor plan after all these years. (It’s not the house in the picture, that one is across the street.)


Shall I talk of the present or the past and which is which. The History Detectives on PBS can take a picture, document or gun and find its story. In January, 2006, I set out to find my past and  it seems I brought those who were long dead back to life.

GazildaGazilda's house
Gazilda Gamble Hernan                                          720 North Ninth Avenue

I took a picture of Grandma Gazilda’s house at 720 North Ninth Avenue. Today it’s pink but if I print the picture in black and white it will almost look like gray stucco of 1926 where I stayed with Grandma when Mama was in the sanatorium with Tuberculosis. Aunt Martha and Aunt Florence entertained me. I think my Dad lived there too and when he came in he would scoop me up and lift me high to reach the ceiling. My baby brother John stayed with Grace, another aunt.

Later when Mama was well, she came home and we lived as a family at 826 North Ninth Avenue.  We were all together, Mama, Daddy, Me and Joe. Soon another little baby Peter. Mama and I were strangers. Looking back I think that Mama tried really hard to make contact with me, but being confused by her abandonment, I kept myself apart. Every day I waited for my Daddy to come home from work.

I took a picture of the house. A neighbor said that the shabby neighborhood will be reborn when a University builds nearby. Looking past the gravel that used to be a lawn I could see a little girl waiting on the porch for her Dad to come walking up the street in the late afternoon. In the mornings she would skip down the sidewalk one and a half blocks where her grandmother was waiting on the corner.  It was hard for her to remember to look both ways before crossing.



Recently I visited the town where I was born. I took pictures of the Plaza. Standing under arches, watching shadows stretch across the walk, it’s not possible that I remember this place and yet I know –it’s where I took some of my first baby steps The arches led to the station where trains arrived with business men or politicians or guests for parties in Isabella Greenway’s big house on the hill. On some days when we watched the trains we would count the cars as they went out loaded with copper ore.

One day when the train arrived, the station was draped in black. Daddy was among the mourners standing at attention as the coffin of General Greenway was carried up the long road to be buried on a knoll overlooking the giant crater of the mine. Mama held my hand as she wept. My baby brother was asleep in his carriage.

This part is not my memory but this is how I try to put together pieces of that time. As an old woman, I stood there looking at the Plaza, trying to understand why this space seemed so important to me.

Everything in this Website ©Patricia Grube

Our First Christmas Together

December 20th, 2018

We were married September 17th in 1943, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bakersfield . Les had met Fr. McGrath when he came out to  Minter Field to say Mass. The ceremony was on Friday evening and Les had to report back to the base on Sunday evening. I found a job in a china shop to fill the time each week and made friends with other service wives. Because this story is to be about Christmas, I need to skip ahead to the time when the Cadets in the Flight Training Program were moved from Minter Field to Williams Field in Chandler, Arizona.

In Bakersfield, I had hooked up with two other wives to follow the troops and by December the three of us, Irma Aspinall, Loretta Bailey and I had found temporary jobs and were sharing a room in the ­­­­El Portal Hotel in Mesa. During the week, after work the three of us would take a bus and ride for an hour over a very bumpy road to Williams Field, 25 miles away. There we could visit with our husbands in the Cadet Day Room where there was no privacy. Our marital bliss could really only be expressed on weekends when the boys would get a 24 hour pass. We girls were quite comfortable in the large room with three single beds but on weekends  one couple would keep the room and the other two would rent other rooms for the night.

A week before Christmas  we bought a scraggly little tree and made some crude ornaments. Our room looked very cheerful with our sad little tree and we kept saying to each other that we were really feeling the Christmas spirit. Inside we were feeling an empty space because never before had any of us been away from our families. We were all very “in love” and thought that should fill up any void. We three gals looked forward to having our hubbies with us for 24 hours to celebrate Christmas. We drew straws to find out who would keep the room.

On Christmas Eve Les and I went to Midnight Mass at the Field and then took the bus for the long ride on the bumpy road to Mesa. It was a magical night following the moon over the desert. We thought we were to have the room but then we discovered that on this holiday, every room in the hotel was booked. What to do? Remember the movie where a blanket made a wall between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable? That’s what we did; we hung an intricate system of blanket walls to make three rooms. Ok, that settles the visual effects, but I have to tell you that private intimacy was not preserved.

This memory is from long ago
and it is still vivid in my memory;
Patricia Grube, ©2010


Althea, Nina and Maude

May 29th, 2018

Three women sit on a bench.
The photographer says, Smile,
now hold it.  Right there.
Say, Cheese! Just a minute.
I need to focus again.
Their chins
tilt up expectantly, their half smiles
wait patiently for this moment
to be recorded. All dressed up

with somewhere to go. Their make-up
has been carefully applied,
their hats have turned up brims.
Wherever they are going,
they know they are ready.
Althea and Nina are cousins,
friends since childhood.
What explains the presence of Maude?
Only funerals or weddings bring
Althea and Maude together.

As for Nina and Maude, her sister-in-law,
there has always been rivalry
between them and some slight tension
when they are together. Flowers bloom
beside the door. Maude is wearing
white gloves. There are no wraps lying
on the bench. It must be late summer.
Perhaps they have met for lunch.

I think of their toughness, their instinct
for survival, for caring, for family.
The fireplace in the background, the wall
and the bench are all of well-worn brick.
Althea, Nina and Maude, gracious
with each other, they have learned
to weather the storms, to let go
of bitterness. They dress with care
when invited to lunch and smile
patiently for the photographer.





Bagdad Road

October 28th, 2016

When Grandpa butchered a steer, he shared part of it with neighbors; and he kept a hindquarter or a shoulder and hung it in the big tree. This tree was the center of all activity on the ranch. Sometimes when the neighbors gathered on Grandma’s porch to tell stories they would talk about the tree. No one seemed to know what kind it was. I remember one of them saying, “Well now, Cottonwood grows in these parts, but I’ve never seen one so big.”

My son, PJ and I are traveling together on Bagdad Road. He wants to see where I lived when I was a child. Before I go any further, I need to explain that actually, we are sitting at my dining-room table studying a map on my computer. The road is well marked so we can easily observe the landscape on either side. There is an image of a wooded area that reminds me of the road runners that scooted in front of us as we climbed the rocky beginnings of the mountain. Now and then we discuss what we see when I blow up a picture with details of the area.

Leaving the main highway just past Wickenburg and wandering through small settlements in the high desert we approach Hillside, a village that grew around a railroad stop. When Grandpa Reagan shipped his stock to market this is where he loaded them on the cattle cars. His cattle grazed on government range. He would go out every day to be sure they were okay. When it was time to take them to market he hired other cowboys to help round them up and bring them down to the road, three miles to our place and then to Hillside to put them on the train.

This is where there was a general store and the proprietor always gave me a small bag of peppermint sticks. From Hillside, it is a five-mile descent to Yava. The rocky hills bring back memories: I would like to see the “goose egg rock”. (Now I think they call it a “football rock”). In the past, the first kid to see it always shouted out.

The Google map leads into the valley, and I realize that after 70 years it all looks different; but the terrain is still familiar and I easily find where the school-house had been. Now there is a pasture and a barn. I turn to PJ and point out the gentle hill where we played baseball and explained, “We ran up hill to reach 1st and 2nd, but then it was an easy run down-hill to 3rd and home.”

Continuing into the valley, the map shows the bridge over the river; just beyond are the fields and the driveway of Grandma’s house. The long veranda has been closed and an addition hides most of the little stone house. It’s difficult to find the big tree; it seems to be hidden by the addition to the house.

Years ago, the tree shaded a large area of the yard. Every Monday Grandma put her wash-tub on the long bench to soak the clothes. That is where tools were repaired. When Grandpa hung beef in the tree, he covered it with several layers of canvas; first a clean one that was covered by another and another and another until it was thick enough to hold in the cold. At night, he would uncover it so it could get really cold; in the morning he would cover it up again.
My cousins and I liked to climb up in the branches; it was protection from the sun. Under the same tree, Grandma had a cooler where she kept the milk, butter and cream; anything she wanted to keep cool. It was about two or three feet square with a slanted top covered with rags; a container on top let water dip onto the rags and cool the inside.

“How old were you then?” PJ asked.

I was about 4 when Mama brought me and my two brothers to live in a little two room house near the main house. I think that Daddy must have been between jobs and it was the best place to be. Now as I look back it also seems that Mama was pregnant with Mary. After she was born they moved back to Phoenix and left me with Grandma. They tried to have me around now and then, but just for a short time. Perhaps I was just too much. Mama had the other three kids and she just couldn’t cope. I would say, “But I could help you take care of the baby.” The answer was always, “No. You’re going to stay with Grandma.” A few times they left my brother Joe with me. So, I felt pretty deserted as a child.

Sometimes I stayed in Phoenix with my Grandma Gazilda, Daddy’s mother. I loved both my grandmothers. They adored me too. Grandma Alice was a very strict. I remember once when I hurt my foot and I was hobbling around, I wanted Joe to dry the dishes for me and he wouldn’t do it. So, I asked my Grandma and she said, “Well if he won’t do it you’ll have to do it yourself.”

PJ was laughing, “That was Grandma Reagan. She loved you, but she was a task-master?”

We had chores to do. No question about that. There was a routine for everything. Every night she sat with me when I did my homework. I mean she had her ways but she taught me how to live.

I pointed to the map where I was trying to see the big tree that used to be behind the stone house; and just north of the tree, there used to be a windmill.  It had a wonderful sound when the breeze would turn it to pump up the clear cold water. The windmill was great; and the water that came out was cool and sweet and produced enough water to irrigate the whole twenty acres.

PJ exclaimed! “Oh! You had twenty acres so it was a little ranch?”

Yes, twenty acres. We called it “The Ranch.” There was a corral and there was a barn. There were about five acres, way in the back, along the creek. Grandpa kept the grasses cut and now and then they would try to grow a crop but it never was successful. I know one year they tried to grow sugarcane.

He had a work horse to pull the plow and he had several other horses. He would get up very early in the morning, milk the cow and do other chores before he came in for a hearty breakfast. After that I watched him get on his horse. He had a lease on a government range and he would ride out there, almost every day.

There was another large section of land where Grandma grew vegetables. The one thing Grandpa did for Grandma’s garden was to plow the ground each spring. In my child’s eyes, I can’t tell you how big it was; but it was probably as big as a city lot and filled with rows and rows of carrots, spinach, cabbage, string beans, potatoes, squash, lettuce and whatever else you can think of. People from all around and travelers driving by would stop to buy vegetables. She would take them into the garden and let them choose what they wanted.

A little further up a hill there was another fertile section where she tried to grow other things; one time it was strawberries and that was good for several years. One year when we all lived there they decided to do a cash crop of carrots. My Dad said he would take them to town. The truck was stacked high with carrots when he left to go up to Prescott to sell them. Then we waited to hear from him; and we didn’t hear from him; and we didn’t hear from him. Finally, one of my uncles went to Prescott to see if he could find him.  Dad was in the Veterans Hospital and was very sick. I don’t know what happened; but he must have sold the carrots and gone on a bender or something. I don’t know. I don’t really know what happened. But there was no money that came back from the carrots.

Daddy was released from the hospital and he went to Phoenix to get a job. Soon after Mary was born, Mama took my brothers and the new baby to join him. I also went to Phoenix, but I stayed with Grandma Gazilda in order to go to kindergarten. Then we learned there was an epidemic of Smallpox or Chickenpox. So, I skipped starting school until the next year when I went back to Yava to start the first grade. That year there were enough students to have two rooms in the school house. The teachers were friends of my folks and when they would go down to Phoenix they would take me with them. For the next few years I was back and forth, staying with my grandmothers and now and then for a while with my folks in Phoenix.

PJ said, “Look, the map shows the whole length of Bagdad Road. Going west from Yava it ends at the town of Bagdad and a big copper mine. Going east from Yava it goes through Skull Valley and then connects with the road to Prescott.