In 1870, in Vallejo, The Good Templars Home for Orphans was built on the top of “Mortgage Hill”. Thousands of children lived in the orphanage from its founding until it closed in 1919. My home is built on that same land.

In the garden in the spring time, we have unearthed golf balls and with them the history of this place. We have discovered that our yard had been a part of a golf course for many years. We like to think of our yard as the tee box for the seventh hole, a par three maybe. Our neighbor up the block claims to have built on the seventh hole green.

The houses here went up in the 1940s and 1950s. Before the golf course, this was the site of the first orphanage in California. Motherless children ran over these hills, climbed these trees; the echoes of their laughter mixed with the wind off the bay and were caught in the branches of the ancient redwoods.

We planted grapes for the orphans, because we knew, like them, the grapes would grow in the rocky soil. They thank us by giving us the toys they have left behind, forgotten at dinnertime, grown out of or lost. The marbles of milky glass, a tiny toy gun we found under the lavender, the colorless metal truck just below the soil at the edge of the grass. With every new spring, we dig again into this soil and look for the artifacts of the past; like a kid with a box of cracker jacks, we know they are there but finding them is a matter of luck.

We collect these gifts in a nest we inherited when the butcher birds grew up and flew away.

– Suzanne M Long