Yanabah has many grandchildren each of whom carry their own personal set of experiences with and memories of her. Yet, common to us all are memories about the mystery and allure of Yanabah’s treasure chest. There were a couple chests in which she kept important things packed away. Whenever grandchildren were visiting, one of those chests always seemed to offer up endless sugar filled treasures.
Evening time would prompt the use of kerosene lamps to light her home. These kerosene lamps are relics of an era almost completely forgotten as even the most remote parts of the reservation now often have access to electricity. But hand held kerosene lamps with cloth wicks will forever remind me of Yanabah’s home. Light from these lamps was warm and yellow in color in contrast to the much brighter modern light bulbs. An already warm and inviting environment seemed so much more so in the soft glow of those kerosene lamps.
In this setting, Yanabah would open the chest to bring out soda and pastries. Sometimes it was Pepsi, sometimes Coke, other times it was Shasta. But without fail there were donuts and jellyrolls which had been supplied to the reservation from by bakery in Gallup, New Mexico. Glazed donuts were a staple but were often accompanied by the more exotic variety pack of powder sugar coated, chocolate frosted, and coconut covered donuts. Jellyrolls were essentially cake and jelly rolled together. Could life get any better for a kid?
To watch Yanabah must have been like witnessing the most effortless bonding between generations. She was a natural. It’s hard to say exactly why this was. Perhaps it was because she was so genuine in her love, so devoid of judgment, completely without agenda, or a combination of all of the above. Whatever it was, it was her gift and it persisted through the years. With treats in hand, we would visit and laugh. At some point, clothespins became toys since I remember many evenings of playing with them. Sometimes Yanabah would bring out a deck of cards and we would sit close to the kerosene lamp and play cards together. As a child, Yanabah’s treasure chest seemed like magic to me because it was always stocked and seemed never-ending. Such simple times, yet such meaningful memories.
I’ve wished that I had a picture of that chest and those kerosene lamps. If any of the family who read this happen have any photos, send them to us and we’ll post them here for all to see.
Here’s to all of the Yanabahs who have likewise inspired such memorable moments from such ordinary circumstances.