The questions and demons that I have battled throughout my time,
still haunt me.
Will all my sins be forgiven?
Are they even forgivable?
Will I ever be worthy?
Will I be remembered?
Countless, never-ending plagues of angst.
Is this how it begins? My story? Seven pounds, thirteen ounces, two feet, ten toes, on Thanksgiving Day in 1947? I was told much later that I ruined Thanksgiving dinner that year by popping out of the oven about the same time as the turkey.
On that day I became the second son and fourth and youngest child of Carlos and Christina Nájera when my soul was sucked out of that vast eternal ether and given a place in their family. Given name is Jaime, which is why I have always have had a special affection for my cousin of the same name. It is still a mystery why or how I became Joseph Edward.
Given name of Margarita Bernabé Ramona Guzman. Husband of José Odilón Ledesma. Mother of Faustino, Manuela, my mother Christina, Emily, Catherine, Melesio, and Eduardo.
She lived a generous portion of years. I am thankful that I have shared some of those years with her. I can still her gentle laugh. She spoke to me in Spanish, I was not very good at it but I managed to put words together in short sentences and she understood me.
I was in my thirties when she started to fade away. I made a special trip from my home in San Jose to Oxnard to spend some time with her.
She was in St John’s hospital. My wife and I went in to see her. Of course, it broke my heart to see her curled up in a fetal ball. She was sleeping and dreaming.
“¡Papá!” She cried. “Wait for me! I am coming!”
Every few minutes she said that. It felt like she was at the train station calling out to him. I do not know for sure if she was dreaming or if she really was at the train station.
I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley. My school years were in the 1950’s and 60’s. Many years ago on a family outing to visit the relatives in Oxnard, my family took us to the Ventura County Courthouse. I am the youngest in our family.
My father led us downstairs to the Ventura County Museum. This was old news to my siblings but being the youngest, everything was new and an adventure. There was lots of things to see about the old days, including things about my father’s family. This was why my father wanted me to go there.
That picture was from his Oxnard High school yearbook. He was a senior in 1927.
My father had two names Carlos L. Nájera and Charles Olivas. Both names were legal and he was proud of both of them. After his father died, his mother married John Olivas. He adopted my dad legally and gave him his last name.
Here’s my father, on the left, standing next to my grandmother Maria Concepción, His sister Natalia is next, then his brother Uncle Robert. That’s John on the right, and my two uncles Frank and Henry Olivas. Frank and Henry have their own story, if the Good Lord gives me time enough to tell it.
John Olivas was a descendant of Don Raimundo Olivas whose home became California Historical Landmark No. 115.
Here I am sitting near the front gate. As you can tell, I don’t like to pose for pictures.
This plaque briefly tells the story of Don Raimundo’s place. If you are ever traveling through Ventura County on Highway 101 take the Telegraph Road exit and follow the signs. It is between the cities of Ventura and Oxnard.
Here is a view of the old house. At the time it was built there were not too many two story adobe houses in California. This is one of them.
This plaque is near the entry of the Adobe grounds.
According to my father, somewhere in the kitchen wall is a hidden well for emergency water in case they were ever under attack.
This is not the way I remember the kitchen. It was a lot more primitive. There was a fogata, a fireplace where the cooking was done. I am remembering when I saw this in 1965 when I was a teenager.
The rooms have been restored with period furniture.
This old photo was inside one of the rooms. They must have been John’s people. I don’t know if they have been identified.
At that time that we were there, June, 2016, there were several groups of students on a field trip. Milady and I followed a group. The docent gave a very good talk as he led us through the house.
The back yard gate faces south toward the city of Oxnard where both my mother and father grew up in the early 1900’s.
According to my dad, that building to the right was the original building. Don Raimundo lived there while building the main house.
The caretaker was living there when my father took me there. His name was Roy, and he and my dad were classmates at Oxnard High. He gave us a private tour of the house. It was a mess inside, full of trash and broken furniture. Roy’s job was to take care of the grounds and protect the house from vandals.