Excerpt from Camouflage for the Neighborhood

by Lorene Delany-Ullman

One-fifth of my hometown was once an army airbase. Eager cadets became pilots, navigators and bombardiers. After V-J Day, the land and buildings were converted into schools, the county fairgrounds, and city hall. Land banking made men rich: lima beans and celery, cleared from the fields, were replaced by tract houses built on raised foundations. Our streets had Irish names; Watson, Dublin, and Shamrock linked into a three-block loop. We didn’t live in a Cinderella home with scrollwork and fascia board. Our house was basic ranch. From the front porch, we had a peek-a-boo view of Disneyland’s Matterhorn and its fake snowcap until everything civic, sprawled. Next-door, a German physicist with five children. What frightened me was the mad Italian woman, her grappling hold on her young son too strong. Hollering for my mother, she broke down on our steps late one night. Her husband and parents hauled her away. Around the block, a retired marine raised and saluted the stars and stripes at 0600.