In the last few years of the 80’s we lived in a ranch style house in Montecito CA. 1989 still remains one of my fondest years. My family lived on one side and my cousins lived on the other- only separated by a large breezeway that had two sets of double doors opening up the house. Our parents rented from Dr. David Karpeles the well known mathematician and owner of the largest privately kept historical document collection (now in the Karpeles museum). Karpeles occupied a large mansion and grounds that bordered our humble home. His grounds were some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen to this day. There weren’t fences separating the property and as an 8 year old boy this was an open invitation to explore the gardens. Although it was probably not a problem for Mr. Karpeles we thought it was of the utmost importance that we stayed as covert as possible in our explorations. It was a game to see how far we could get, what new things we could find and how close to the mansion we could sneak to without being caught.
To paint a clearer picture of the property there were no less than 3 gardeners on site at all times taking care of the watering systems, ponds, fountains, manicured lawns, fruit trees, flowers, and rock walls that outlined the seemingly endless pathways that cut through every which way. There was a bamboo forest which doubled to us as a sword fight training ground. A few redwood trees jetted up into the sky, one of which had a sort of cradle on the very top that doubled as a human size nest (so I was told, at 8 I was not able to climb that high). A flat area of soft sand like a desert which we called “the dusty dusty dirt” yes, dusty was there twice, I have no idea why we named it that. A literal grove of aloe plants allowed us to get on all fours and tunnel into it for hours.
It was an amazing place. The type of place where as a kid you could make wings out of feathers and actually believe it was possible to fly, which we tried. The type of place where you spent all day outside until you heard Dad whistle loudly which was the signal for dinner. I have memories of silly string fights that ruined the kitchen floor, candle light feasts in the summer, being squirted off with a hose when we came home from the beach, not quite making the jump on the skateboard, life-size home made paper mâché llamas (or giraffes?), rescuing my dog from nuns at the corner elementary school after he snuck in and ate the kids lunches, endless slip and slides, digging in the dirt, climbing up trees and falling out of them, wearing capes, and Family. Lots of family.
To this day all of us are attached. I am blessed to see my cousins every day as we build our studio and art together.
I still get glimpses of what that time felt like, and Santa Barbara still brings back those memories.
Of course from our parents view it wasn’t all rainbows, there were tough times us kids were sheltered from. It’s amazing what we can be oblivious of as children- but even the parents admit there was something special about that place and time. I’m sure they are still kicking themselves from time to time for not buying the house when it was offered for pennies on the dollar to today’s standards.
Nonetheless, it is my goal to give my daughter this same sort of magical childhood.