Geographic memory

I’m in Redding, California now visiting my wife Beth’s parents, who moved here earlier this year. It’s an odd feeling, coming back decades later and still having geographic memory about where things are.

Dad pointed me to his old house on Victor Ave, which is still a dentist’s office today (Grandpa & Grandma sold it to a dentist back in the 70s). I stood in the parking lot on Sunday morning as he pointed out the bedroom he shared with his older brother, where he stuffed towels under the door so he could read late into the night.

Cow Creek BridgeWith a little help from my mom (“Head east on 44 and turn left…”) and the Internet (pictures…from space!), I managed to find the old ranch in Millville, east of Palo Cedro. I recognized it right away from the white fence behind the house.

What’s even odder, I realized on the drive back into town, is that Grandpa & Grandma moved from Millville into Palo Cedro by the time we visited in 1984, so my very clear memory of where the ranch was and what it looked like dates all the way back to 1979.

Beth took a picture of me next to Cow Creek, where Grandpa pulled me out of the water after I’d stepped off the shallow shoal into the deceptively deep (for a five-year-old) main channel. I wrote a poem about that a few years ago, and I now have a few more details to add from the unchanged scene I saw today, 30 years later.

I called my brother Nathan from the shopping complex where Grandpa & Grandma B got their groceries, which still has an odd windmill structure I described to Beth even before we saw it come up next to the highway. It’s a Verizon store now.

We went up to the dam at Whiskeytown this afternoon (we did Shasta Dam yesterday), and stopped for a few minutes among the ruins of Shasta — exactly as I remember them, despite several recent fires that swept through the area.


Ultimately, the only place I’ve been unable to find here in Redding is that little Mexican restaurant Grandpa used to take us to, La Casita, I think. The only La Casita in the area is way out in Weaverville, 40 miles east. Redding has changed a lot in the last twenty to thirty years, but nearly all the places I remember — and even some new ones, like my father’s childhood home — remain essentially unchanged.

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