Courage at Twilight: Sunday Afternoon Drive

Mom asked me almost sheepishly after church, “Do you think, perhaps, we could take a drive today? I would so like to see the old Bawden home my grandparents built.”  “Of course!” I answered.  “I’m sorry the thought did not occur to me before.”  Dad’s faithful Suburban lead us by the back roads across the Salt Lake valley to historic Granger, my mother’s hometown.  We noted fondly the orange-dotted pumpkin farms and horse corrals and vegetable gardens, and commented on the architectural eras of the homes—1930s bungalow was our favorite.  Mom suggested we drive by the house where Dad lived from 15 to 26, from junior high school to his 1962 marriage to Mom.  “I moved here 70 years ago,” he observed flatly.  Many of those years were unhappy and traumatic for Dad and his siblings due to trouble at home.  But Dad was blessed by the influences of Isabelle Bangerter, Grant Bangerter, and Ella Bennion, all of whom built him up, treated him kindly and with respect, nudged him toward a path of personal fulfillment, and influenced his concepts of self-worth and the life worth living.  The tension and sadness I felt in the car evaporated as I drove away.  A few miles away, there sat the old Bawden house, strong and modest and pretty, built by the family in the late 1800s.  I met my great-grandparents there when I was a little boy as the family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.  In the 1930s, Mom’s father Wallace built a bungalow nearby, for his new wife’s wedding gift, and there Mom grew up, in the new Bawden bungalow near the old Bawden homestead.  Granger was all farmland then, with homes separated by miles of farms.  Now it is deteriorating strip mall suburbia.  I spent many days in Mom’s childhood home, roaming the empty dusty old chicken coops, breathing the soothing old smell of the oil-and-dust garage, pumping the hand well, hunting giant night-crawler earthworms for trout fishing, and roasting hot dogs on the outdoor cinderblock grill at family parties.  When my grandma lived in a nursing home in her mid-90s, the family sold the house to the car dealer next door, who razed the prime half-acre and put in a parking lot.  I can’t help thinking of Joni Mitchell’s famous Big Yellow Taxi from 1970: “They paved paradise, Put up a parking lot.”  I feel grateful I have memories and photographs of that old paradise.

My great-grandparents’ home in Granger, Utah.

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