The breeze blew gently across the Costa Mesa bluffs at the posh affair to commemorate the Diego Sepulveda Adobe, which has stood for nearly 200 years. I played nice, swallowing most subversive comments, during the event celebrating the Segerstrom Family’s foresight to designate the adobe and adjacent five acres for historic preservation fifty years ago. Well, mostly.
I nudged my aunt as we walked into the adobe and pointed to the fair skinned six foot tall manikin dressed in black Californio Victorian dress, “She’d have to be about a foot smaller and dark-skinned to be historically accurate.”
“They don’t make those manikins,” Elaine responded.
Even though the adobe was built as an extension of Rancho de Santiago de Santa Ana, (near the Native American village of Lukup, which they did recognize) the historic plaques showcased very little of the Californio lifestyle. Save one placard which rather summed up the genesis of my mounting ire:
The Californios were very family centric – almost like Medieval Tudor families. News from the rest of the country, much less the broader world, came to them several months after the fact. The family was core of their existence.
They were generous, social, but also tight as thieves.
Two hundred years later, I wanted to hear news about my family’s rancho since we were on the Rancho. It’s like being mute with a story you are proud to tell and not enough details to tell it.
The speakers went on to laud how in 1900 CJ Segerstom moved to Costa Mesa and acquired land where he started a dairy farm and lima bean fields, eventually amassing enormous wealth to build an upscale luxury internationally known mall (South Coast Plaza), a concert hall, high school and several commercial ventures and the six generations of Segerstroms who have given back to community.
At this point, I held up ten fingers to illustrate to my aunt that we are ten generations in Costa Mesa. We gave each other the “Vato” nod.
Later at a work party tonight I was reliving my thoughts on this superficial celebration to commemorate the return of an original adobe brick to this landmark and praise the Segerstroms – without proper acknowledgment nor validity to the entire story I added in disgust
My work buddy Diana asked directly, “Do you think there will ever be a time when there isn’t a story that revolves around your family?”
Oh, there is nothing like the cosmic 2×4 to knock you off your self-imposed pedestal.
Now I know it’s a grand thing that I love my family history. It’s also true that although many undercurrents of California culture have been built upon a bucolic past, the credit for those Californio pioneers living and carving out pastoral days is a largely overlooked. But there comes a time when a little perspective is in order.
I’m not there yet. I am arrogant about my family’s contribution to our culture. And it’s not easy for me to put them in a box and tuck them away or see them as anything less than epic.
Maybe someday. Maybe never.