Sharon Darnell

Sharon Darnell| Meadow Lakes

9- 23-22

The Acres

Home at last. At least that is what Mom (Florence Thomason) thought when she arrived each summer at the Acres. Each year she wanted to stay and never leave. Dad (Gordon Thomason) would not hear of it. His home was in the desert, Apple Valley to be exact. He had built their house with his own labor, although Mom, wanting a cool hideaway, dug the basement. Even though he was from North Dakota with a home near a fishing river he adjusted to desert life and made it his place. Not Mom, she made friends and tolerated.

When she inherited a small amount of money in the 70’s from her father, she made it clear that was going to purchase property in Meadow Lakes, where they had visited over the years. Her money, her decision. She was done living summers in the desert. He could come with her or he could stay.

Each spring they traversed over Tehachapi Pass in their 1955 Green Pontiac station wagon, at first staying in their old camping trailer hauled up from down south. Fortunately, the property had an excellent well. Soon Dad was wrapped up in projects, making the place livable by hooking up the water and sewage, adding an outside porch and storage buildings. Mom decided the camper was too small and found a mobile to move onto the property. Two additional outbuildings were added–one for storage of tools in the winter and another for guests called “Stevie’s Room,” named for the grandson that came to visit from Maryland each summer. Since it was not convenient to drive for laundry, Dad built a large “washroom” with a shower, toilet, washer, dryer, and sink area. Dad built wood sidewalks to go from one building to the next.

As soon as possible each spring they arrived at their “home” away from home, Mom raking and cleaning to pass fire inspections, and Dad continuing to build. Grandkids spent the summer and family reunions were held at the Acres. It was a hub of activity for the entire family. The Meadow Lakes’ pond was a draw and Grandpa and the kids spent many an hour there, always catch and release. When age prevented their traveling to the summer place they reluctantly sold it to a family member. 

The following are stories by one of the grandchildren and his wife on what the Acres meant to them: 

Mike Darnell, September 2020:

You know it [the Creek fire] may have took the wash room, but it can’t take the memories of me and Grandpa building it. I enjoyed that so much. They, Grandma and Grandpa were two of the most important people in my life. And the memories are clear as day, I can always see their smiles. And Mikey and Shar have so many of their own with them and the Acres. I don’t know where we go from here. But fire cannot destroy memories. I’ll just say the serenity prayer, cry a lot, and just keep on trucking.

Marlene Darnell,  September 12, 2020:

Today we got the confirmation that our family’s property by Meadow Lakes was lost to the Creek Fire……. although this was not a primary residence, it held so many memories of 4 generations of our family. Big Papa and Big Grandma, as my kids called them, built the “Acres” with love and enjoyed it to the fullest. Although this is a huge loss to our family, we feel fortunate that it was not our primary residence, so many families are not this fortunate and our hearts go out to them. Our memories cannot be taken away, ever! Mike is so sad, remembering all of the projects he and Grandpa did together up at the Acres…… GREAT memories…… Sharlynn Webb and Michael Darnell spent so much time up there every summer when Big Papa and Big Grandma were there. We lived there when we were moving in the new mobile at the Prather property, in the winter, walking the kids in the snow to the bus stop….. so many memories…… and all of you with the childhood memories of cousins congregating….. I feel so bad for the family’s loss….. We will rebuild from the ashes and as a mountain community we will unite and stay strong and be there for one another. 

Sharon Darnell:
The time has come, we decide, to visit the Acres. “Be brave,” we said, “we can handle this.” But of course we could not. The memories flooded back, the tears flowed, and the neighbor whose property was spared climbed up her hill to share her sympathy and thoughts with us. There was nothing. Stark remains of the vibrant trees. Holes, where they once reached to the sky, still burning months later. Twisted metal frames of the mobiles. Stark, naked, depleted, charred and empty are just words describing the devastation left. The home away from home, gone.