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The Californian

Californian contributing columnist Steve Flores.

It was my maternal grandmother's summer evening ritual.After the last dinner dishes had been cleaned, rinsed, washed and put away by me, my brothers and sister tall enough to reach the sink, our Grandma Ochoa would casually stroll out the door to our Watts Drive front yard. She came to live with us after my mom died from leukemia to help my dad raise me and my seven brothers and sisters.

Grandma would grab the water hose connected to the faucet and stretch it completely across our small front yard. Instead of a sidewalk, our southeast Bakersfield neighborhoods had dirt pathways. It was the 1960s and sidewalks did not exist in our neighborhood. Come to think of it, to this day, most neighborhoods in southeast Bakersfield still don't have sidewalks.

She wore the slightly tattered apron she had been wearing all day. You could with almost total certainty look at her apron and know her day's activities. White flower powdered her apron from the fresh tortillas she had just made for supper. One pocket would be half filled with clothes pins broken while hanging the day's wash. Bobbie pins on her apron strap were from fixing my sister's hair before going to school. And Grandma's own rendition of a Swiss Army knife, her safety pins, would be holding her other pocket onto her apron. Her safety pins removed splinters, fixed blisters and once served as a temporary antenna on our black and white television. And most certainly on her apron would be tear stains from consoling one of us from our daily obligatory brother-sister arguments.

Inside one of the pockets of her small print, blue floral apron, she would make a stealth attempt to bring out a 35 cent pack of Salem cigarettes. She would half snap it with her free hand and with her lips, pull one cigarette from the pack, stuff the remaining Salem's into her apron pocket and with one motion pull out Lucky Strike matches and to our protest, light her cigarette.

Then she would ask one of us to turn the water on for her.

I marveled at the way she began to water. It was like she was painting a canvas rather than nurturing our lawn and plants. She would start by gently stirring up a light cloud of dust from the dirt pathway.

You could sense a state of relaxation that seemed to physically overcome her as moved to our lawn and plants. You could almost see her mentally drift far away from the loving chaos of our Watts Drive home.

I know this is strange to say, but it was like watching the Mickey Mouse broom scene from the Disney Movie "Fantasia". The water hose was her wand, her apron was her sorcerer's apprentice robe and plants in our front yard seemed to become animated and take on a life of their own.

Although she never said it, we knew this was her alone time. It was her time to relax.

I bet if we looked hard enough, somewhere on our planet someone much smarter than me -- but not smarter than my grandma -- is teaching the fine art of hose-watering the lawn in a relaxation, yoga, tai chi or meditation class.

Shut off your automatic water system one summer evening and try watering by hand. Of course, do it sensibly. No over-watering. I think you will really enjoy it.

I do, and each time it relaxes me, lets my mind breath and -- most importantly -- reconnects me to memories of my grandma.

Happy watering. Happy relaxing.

Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at