Posts Tagged ‘family stories’


Join me during the month of April as I blog through the alphabet. My theme will be What’s In A Name. I will attempt to write up a short fictional character sketch beginning with a different letter of the alphabet each day. Remember that a place can also be a character.


We walked into the house and my husband told me to sit on the couch while he went to his grandmother’s room to see if she was awake. I was more nervous than I thought I would be. I was meeting my husband’s family for the first time. This was the first stop where I would meet his maternal grandmother before going on to  his parents’ house.

From the other room I heard a frail voice ask to be helped out of bed so she could come and meet me. She was bedridden and I had been told that if she was awake, I would go into her room to meet her but here she was, asking to come meet me. I wondered if I should go down the hall and find them so that she wouldn’t have to come out of bed but by then, I could see that they were making their way out to the hall as I saw the front of her walker round the corner into the hall.

“Well excuse me for sitting down before meeting you but I need to sit a lot these days. Come here so I can meet you properly and welcome you with a hug.” She was frail but strong. Her presence was commanding, all eighty pounds of her!

She gave me a strong hug then held on to me.  “Let me look at you. I don’t see well anymore so you need to stand very close so I can see your face.” She studied me but not in a way that was off  putting. “Oh you’re a pretty one! Look at that beautiful hair. And I see you have earrings on. I can’t tell what they look like but I can see them dangling from your ear. Tell me about them. Oh! But sit first. Make yourself at home. Can my grandson get you something to drink?”

I sat and she chatted with me for awhile. She told me about how she loved jewelry and never left the house without her jewelry. She said she always had to have a ring, a bracelet, a wrist watch, and earrings or she felt naked! She told me about how she had lived in Fort Wayne in Indiana all her life but when her daughter, Laurabelle, told her a her husband had come home late one night without their daughter because he had forgotten to pick her up from school, she sold her house and packed her belongings and drove from Fort Wayne to Calexico. She was determined that nothing like that would ever happen to her granddaughter or any of her grandchildren again. So she bought the house so that the children could walk to her house after school every day until they were picked up and if they weren’t picked up, they were safe there with her.

I heard a lot of stories that afternoon but then she got tired. She went to rest and we headed out the door and to my in-laws’ house and although I was still nervous, the afternoon with my new grandmother-in-law had eased a lot of my nerves.

That was my first introduction to Nonnie. I didn’t know her long. She died less than a year after our afternoon meeting, but in many ways, I got to know her much better than I got to know anyone else in the family.

To me and the rest of the family, she was Nonnie. To everyone else, she was Zama.

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So this one is sort of about letters. And it doesn’t involve me. It’s about my ex-husband and his sister. They tell a story, and I believe it because I know them both, about one year when his older sister was at UCLA and he was at MIT. They wrote letters all year long. He didn’t have money to fly home for any holidays so he stayed in Boston from August until May. Long distance phone calls in those days (the late 60’s) were very expensive so the only way to stay in touch was through letters. Mr. Google has led me to several sites that say first class letter postage in 1969 was six cents. It doesn’t seem like much, does it?

One year, they used the same stamp all year long, back and forth the stamp traveled. They figured out that you could use a pencil eraser to erase the postmark stamping from the stamp and they were very careful about taking the stamp off. I am not sure which glue they sued but I vaguely remember that it was rubber cement. So the stamp would travel from Los Angeles to Boston and back again, over and over. I don’t know how often they wrote but I am thinking it was about once a month so that stamp must have made the round trip at least ten times! And I don’t think they did it to save money. I think they did it more just to prove that it could be done.

That’s my letter-ish post for today!

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Yesterday I wrote about a laundry lesson and my son. That reminded me of another lesson with my son. I went through old posts because I was sure I had written about it previously but I didn’t find it. Of course, maybe I just didn’t look well enough but in any case, I’m writing it up for you today.

In eighth grade, Tony developed a habit of sleeping in late in the mornings. On school mornings. He would stay up way too late and although I kept after him to go to bed, I was not going to put either of us through a routine of standing there until he got in bed and shut off the lights. I gave him more credit than that and trusted him to finish what he was doing and go to bed. If he woke up too late he would end up being late to school. I would not let him stay home just because he had stayed up too late. However, because he would get in trouble, I did call the school and say he hadn’t felt well that morning and had missed first period but I would get him there by second period. Then it happened again. And again.

By the fourth time, I told him the night before that if he didn’t get up in time for school, I was not going to lie for him. I guess he didn’t believe me because he overslept again. And true to my warning, I refused to call in or write him a note. I just took him and dropped him off, waiting at the curb until he walked in the door. That afternoon he was mad at me. He said that all because of me he was going to have to have a week of lunch time detention. I reminded him that it wasn’t because of me. It was because he couldn’t go to bed on time or get up on time. He mumbled something and went in his room.

It turns out that lunch detention was held in one of the classrooms. The kids would take their lunch in there and they had five minutes to eat. No talking. Just eating. Then when they were finished eating, they had to sit perfectly straight, facing forward, with their hands folded in front of them for the rest of the lunch period. He said it was beyond boring. I almost felt bad for him. Almost. But I was trying to teach him to be more responsible. I was afraid he might not learn and we would have to do it all over again.

It seemed to have worked because he didn’t over sleep again. Not for school.

Then, about two or more months later, he said one day, “Mom you know when you made me go to school and tell them I had over slept and I had lunch detention for a week? Well, I hated it at the time and I was mad at you but now I realize that it was the best thing you could have done for me.”

Lesson learned. For both of us.

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I was going to write a post yesterday, Saturday, but that didn’t happen. I’m a bit slow these days. Then I was going to write something early this morning but well, here it is, almost seven in the evening and I am just now getting to it. Oh well!

This is actually not about laundry. Not completely. It’s sort of a laundry list of things going on. It’s the kind of post I might write for a Weekend Coffee Share. I’m really missing those and I’ve lost some of the people that participated in those. I guess I will have to try to go back through all of my Weekend Coffee Share posts and see who commented and find their blogs because I miss them!

I’m not going to say too much about that unthinkable thing that happen in Las Vegas a week ago today but I will mention it because I think it has a lot to do with how I am feeling these days. I’m sure a lot of you have felt the oppression of a world gone crazy this week and of how our politicians in America seem to be ignoring what they shouldn’t and making hay out of what they should ignore. Incredible. But then again, it seems that the incredible is more and more the standard in this world.

I think it is time to bring out my light spectrum light bulbs because I can feel the depression of the seasonal changes coming on. It’s time. And it’s time to take my multivitamins in hopes that my energy level will improve. Time to take my muscle relaxant even if I don’t think I need it because by the time I realize I need it, it’s too late.

Laundy. It’s also time to do laundry because I was lucky yesterday and today, lucky that it was on the cool side and I didn’t have to go out of the house because all that was clean was leggings and a couple of sweaters. Tomorrow there won’t be even that so laundry must be done tonight.

Speaking of laundry, a friend of mine’s Facebook post about how she hates doing laundry reminded me of a laundry story! It happened years ago, when I was the single mom of three kids. The two older ones were in high school and middle school and had to bring their P.E. clothes home to launder each week. I was also working full time and a part time job in the evenings. There was rarely enough time to catch my breath, let alone catch up on laundry. It seems I was always running behind. This one Sunday night, about ten, I had just sat down to put my feet up for a few minutes as the girls had gotten to bed. Then my son came into the room and, with a less than respectful tone, scolded my because I hadn’t washed his P.E. clothes and he needed them for the morning. It was the scolding tone that got to me. I looked at him and told him he was old enough to do his laundry (he was about 15 or 16) and from then on I wasn’t doing his laundry anymore. If he wanted clean clothes he was going to have to wash them himself. He immediately got defensive and said he didn’t know how to do it so I told him to get his laundry and I would meet him in the washroom and would show him this one time. And I did just that. I told him what to do step by step. I didn’t do it for him. I told him what he had to do. Then I told him how to work the machine and after he turned it on, I showed him how to work the dryer. Then I went to bed in protest. I was not going to have him come in later and ask for more help.

After that, he always did his own laundry if I wasn’t doing other laundry and at times, he would say I should just get some rest and he would do all the laundry, not just his. That was when I learned that it is sometimes okay to “let your kids down” to actually help them rise up in the long run.

What’s up in your neck of the woods? Do you have any “laundry” stories? Do tell.

Leaving you with last week’s “laundry picture.”


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[NOTE: This is the story about the night I was born. The words the mother speaks to the baby at the end are the words I spoke to my daughters at their births. And yes, my parents really are named María and José, although they both use their middle names because they feel their names are too common. I have heard the story over and over again over the past 60 years. My mother swears it was 11:52 PM but my birth certificate says I was born at 11:19 PM. In any case, I was my mom’s Christmas baby!]

María lay in bed exhausted, yet unable to sleep. She’d had an endless day and had just finished putting out the gifts for her four children. Tomorrow would be filled with joy and much activity. The kids were sure to waken by seven, anxious to open their gifts and play with their new toys. There would be lots of cooking to do, too.

Just a week ago things had looked quite bleak. They didn’t have much money and her heart had ached at the thought of disappointing her children on Christmas. Somehow, José, her husband, had managed to work a few days and had brought her enough money for groceries and a couple of modest gifts for each of the children. They had even gotten a small tree to decorate.

He had come through and María appreciated it. It allowed her to push back the memories of all the times he’d come home late, drunk, and smelling of dime store cologne.

María thought about her life. They lived in a tiny two room house with no heat and no indoor bathroom. They were far from town. The car was always either broken or out of gas. Her husband worked in the fields during the season and at odd jobs in the winter. Her children never had new clothes. She had to accept old clothes from her neighbors and her comadre’s. María’s beautiful little girl had to wear boys’ clothes. Her boys needed shoes that didn’t fall off their feet when they ran so they wouldn’t fall and get hurt. She was very familiar with the second-hand stores where José took her to shop when the boxes of clothes from her comadre didn’t fill all of their needs.

She had given birth four times in five years and was now nine months pregnant with their fifth child. She wondered how many more times she’d give birth before José tired of her and left her alone or ended up dead on the highway on his way home from the cantina he always managed to visit, even when he said they could afford nothing else.

Sometimes things were alright. José could be thoughtful and attentive if he wanted to be. He loved playing with his children. He even helped María with the housework when he wasn’t working. He had taught María how to cook when they had married. José was a hard worker and always managed to provide his family with what they needed.

María loved her children. Sometimes they were all that kept her going. They needed her. They loved her. She loved to see their happy faces and feel their sticky kisses and tight hugs. She liked being able to console them when they were hurt and crying.

María thought about the baby inside of her that made it impossible for her to find a comfortable position. She hoped this one would be another girl. When her first child had been born, she had wished for a girl, only to get a boy. She had cried but soon she loved him so much that she had wished for sons when she had become pregnant for the second, third, and fourth times. When God gave her a daughter for her fourth child, she had cried with disappointment, only to grow to love her so quickly that now her wish for a second daughter made her smile as she rubbed her swollen belly.

She wondered what the future had to offer this innocent child. María feared that perhaps it was a sin to bring children into the world when she and José had so little to offer them. Her exhaustion finally gave way to sleep, as the infant inside of her womb settled down also.

The next morning the children woke their parents asking eagerly if they could go open their gifts. They were happy with what Santo Clos had brought them. They were not used to getting toys or new clothes. The boys had each gotten gun sets–belts, holsters, guns, and even tin badges. José’s boss had given him a small cowboy hat for one of the boys and María had found a couple of bandanas at the segunda. They had also managed to get their hands on three tricycles for the boys. José had worked on them late at night, fixing and painting them to look like new.

Their little daughter was busy playing with her life-like baby doll that had moving eyes, hair, and drank from a bottle. María’s comadre had sewn a small brown bear for her. The last trip they had made to the segunda had provided them with toy dishes for the little girl and a warm coat of red velvet.

After opening the gifts, the children had breakfast. Their mother had fixed huevos con chorizo and fresh tortillas. While she cleaned up after breakfast, María turned on the radio. She tuned to her favorite station. The announcer was excitedly bragging about how his wife had given birth to a baby daughter shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve. She thought to herself how wonderful it would be to give birth on Christmas day!

When she finished with the dishes, she sat by the tree to watch the children at play. It was cold and damp outside so they had to stay indoors. María looked at the tree. They had only a few glass ornaments on it. They were painted shiny, bright colors with dainty designs that looked and felt like fuzzy snowflakes. María could see her reflection in them. She had cut a silver star out of an old pie plate. The plain, simple star now stood guard on top of the little tree. María hoped that maybe next year they would be able to get some colored electric lights like her comadre had on her tree.

All day she waited for the pains to begin. She couldn’t believe how crazy it was that she was actually looking forward to the pains that she had dreaded so much the other times. She felt that there was something special about this child and certainly it was God’s blessing to have a baby born on Christmas day and so she was almost eager to feel the pain that would threaten to tear her apart from the inside out. She dozed for a while, as the children played and she listened to the gentle rain falling outside.

Later that afternoon María was wakened by the thunder outside, crackling loudly. It had begun to rain violently. The house was dark. The wind was deafening as it threatened to blow the tiny house away. The rain fell as if being poured directly over them from a pitcher. The sky had darkened prematurely.

The children were scared. They gathered near their mother. The radio announcer reported that many roads had been closed and that the reservoir was threatening to overflow. At this, María turned down the volume and went into the bedroom to tell José. She was frightened. Their house was just about a half mile from the reservoir. If it overflowed, their small house would be washed away. It was time to load up the car and get as far away as they could. They had friends in town. Their compadres were sure to let them stay for a night or two.

José came into the room and listened briefly to the radio reports. He told her to gather their things and get the kids into the car. They would go into town for the night. When they were all in the car, José could not get it started. He got out and tried everything he knew to try to get the old car going. Nothing worked.

The children, sensing danger, cried softly and obeyed every order given them by their parents. They seemed to know instinctively that their cooperation was an absolute necessity. Even the youngest acted like an angel.

After some time of futilely trying to start the car, José began walking the half mile to the nearest neighbors to get help. When he arrived, there was no one there. He continued to walk toward the road to look for help for his family. It was very difficult to walk against the oppressive rain and wind which seemed to be concentrating their joint efforts on keeping him from reaching the highway.

As José neared the main highway, he could make out flashing lights. He quickened his step and waved his arms, even though he knew they couldn’t see him. It was about nine o’clock and the night was black, except for the lights that flashed from the highway. Finally, as José reached the road, a Highway Patrolman spotted him.

“What are you doing out here? It’s very dangerous. We’ve evacuated the place and have road blocks to keep people out of the area. How did you get back into the restricted area?” asked the Patrolman.

“I live back there. No one evacuated us. We heard the reports on the radio and tried to get out but our car won’t start. My family is stuck back there. We need help,” answered José.

“Your family? We thought we had everyone out of there. How many people are back there? How far? Where exactly are they? Are there any others still back in there, besides your family?” quizzed the Patrolman rapidly.

“It’s about three miles back. Right up against the dam. My wife and four kids are out there. I didn’t see anyone else on my way out here,” explained José.

The Patrolman sent two cars back to get the family and some of their belongings. José rode along in the lead car to show them the way.

When they got to the house, they found the car empty. Inside the house, the only light was the flicker of a candle. When they entered, they found María in hard labor, the children gathered around her with wide, frightened eyes.

One of the Patrolmen took a single look at thescene and started to give orders. “Officer Taylor, help me get this woman into my car. I’ll take her directly to County Hospital. You can stay here with this man and help him get the children to safety, then you can bring him to County.”

They quickly and carefully carried María into the car and rushed inside the house to get the kids without waiting for the first car to drive away.

An hour later, José rushed into the Obstetrics Ward at County Hospital to ask about his wife. “She’s in labor. She’s not quite ready to deliver. You can wait downstairs. I’ll call down when there’s any word,” instructed the pretty nurse with a sympathetic smile on her face.

In the Delivery Room, María gasped for air. “Please Doctor, you have to help me deliver my baby now. It’s almost midnight. My baby has to be born before midnight. Please help my baby come now. What time is it? What time is it?”

“It’s about 11:30 María. Don’t be in such a hurry. This baby will come when it’s ready. I can’t do anything about it. Relax. It’s almost here. On the next contraction, push as hard as you can!” the young intern smiled at María reassuringly.

After pushing through three or four more contractions, María felt the baby being born. She heard the strong crying. The doctor gladly announced “It’s a girl, María! You have a beautiful, healthy baby girl!”

“What time is it?” asked María. “Did I make it? Is she a Christmas baby?”

“It’s 11:52. You made it! You have a Christmas baby! Congratulations, María.” The intern smiled as he continued to examine both mother and baby. “Why was it so important to have a Christmas baby anyway, María?”

“Because this baby is special. She is my gift to the world. She’s going to be a very special person,” beamed María as she put her arms out to take her baby.

Later, when she was in the ward, after José had come in to see her and the 5 pound little girl María held in her arms, María spoke to her daughter with complete adoration: “You are my hope for the future. You are a gift. A gift to me…to our family…a gift to all the world. You will bring good things into this world. I know you will be a special daughter. You bring me hope that out of the darkness of my life, something beautiful will come. Joyful, beautiful, and wonderful things will follow you wherever you go and everyone you touch will be blessed with your joy. You are my joy today, tomorrow, and always.”


Just me and my mom, around May,1956.

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Santa Barbara

He had meant to make her smile. She had been on the verge of tears since they had left the Greyhound station in Austin, ready to start a life together. Instead of smiling, the tears began to flow quietly. He thought he would try again.

“Don’t cry. Be happy. Just think, one day we will have so many children that we will have to buy a bus like this to fit them in.” She started to cry loudly. People began to stare. He didn’t know what to do. He wished they would get there soon but Salinas was hours away.


Throwback Thursday…a story my dad told us, in 100 words.

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Tooth Fairy

We knew it would happen soon. Anderson’s teeth have been getting more and more loose. Yesterday one was almost dangling so we prepared him for when it came out. He seemed a little apprehensive about it but we told him it would be fine. I told him about how his mom lost her tooth when she took a bite of a cheeseburger once and another tooth stayed in the pizza when she took a bite of it.  If I recall correctly, she also swallowed one of her teeth!

He asked about the tooth fairy. It seems there are four or five others in his class that have already lost teeth so they told him about the tooth fairy. So we said yes, the tooth fairy will visit after his tooth comes out.

He was all set for magic. Then I stayed behind at the motel while my daughter took the boys to see her dad and step mother for dinner. About a half hour later I got a text picture of the tooth in the palm of Anderson’s hand.  So I missed being there. So did his dad. His grandpa got this one but that’s okay. I have had the pleasure of sharing so many firsts with Anderson that I don’t mind him having one!

When they got back to the hotel, Anderson jumped out of the car and ran to me showing me his missing tooth (the hole in his mouth).  He was so cute, he asked where he was sleeping and when he was told he could sleep with me or with his mom, he said he’d sleep with mom. Then he took his tooth out of his mom’s purse and ran to put it under the pillow.  He was soooo excited. It made me happy to know that at least for a while he’ll believe in magic and the tooth fairy

and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

That’s all part of growing up and we can all use a little bit of magic once in awhile. We’ll let Anderson have his!

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Blogging From A to Z

When my youngest child, Susie, was around 7 years old, she had a favorite garment. Previously, it had been a little blue Hawaiian print sundress that she had gotten in Maui at Hilo Hattie’s. She would refuse to take it off and I would have to wait until she was asleep to wash it. She finally outgrew that outfit and found another favorite. It was a bright red chenille zippered vest. I don’t even remember what the other pieces of the outfit were. I just remember the vest which she wore non stop. If it was too warm, she wore the vest as a blouse. If it was too cold, she would wear the vest as one of several layers. Regardless of the weather or occasion, she wore that vest.

Finally, one day the zipper broke. Did that keep her from wearing the vest? Nope! She wore it at home (because I refused to let her wear it out of the house any longer) over whatever top she had on. She wouldn’t let me throw it out. Believe me, I considered tossing it out while she was at school but figured it might cause more problems than it solved and she wasn’t hurting anyone. She was letting me set some boundaries about when to wear it and where. So I let her keep it. One day, after school, as I headed for the kitchen to get dinner started, I saw Susie jumping up and down on top of the bean bag chair in the bedroom she shared with her older sister. What caught my attention was that she had the corner of the vest, the part with the zipper on it, in her mouth and was jumping up and down. I popped into her room and told her not to jump with the zipper in her mouth or she might get hurt. I even said she might swallow her zipper! She took the zipper out of her mouth and kept jumping and I headed for the kitchen.

Not five minutes later I heard her screaming! “Mommy! Mommy! Call the ambulance! Take me to the hospital!” I stopped long enough to realize that she was serious and that she was scared. I ran to the bedroom expecting to see blood all over. She stood in the middle of the room, unmoving, with a horrified look on her face. I asked her what had happened and she said, “I swallowed my zipper!” That was the only part coherent enough for me to make out. I asked again and got the story. She had put the zipper back in her mouth and continued jumping after I left the room and sure enough, just like “mama said”, the zipper mechanism became dislodged from the track and she ended up swallowing it! She kept saying: “Call the hospital. I have to go to the hospital. I’m going to die!” She appeared to be fine, other than being scared to death. She was not choking. She was breathing fine. I checked her mouth and throat for any blood. There was none. Then I called the doctor’s office and explained what had happened. Once they got over their hysterical laughter, they said I should take her straight to the Radiology Department and they would take some pictures to see if they could find the zipper. So off we went. When we arrived at the Radiology Department, they were waiting for us and they were full of questions about how she could have swallowed a zipper. Had they understood the doctor’s office correctly?

After all of the explanations, they took the x-rays and we were ushered into the waiting room while they looked at the x-rays to see if they could find anything there. Sure enough, out came the radiologist, shaking his head and trying not to laugh. He called us over to the back and showed us the x-ray and there it was. The zipper. It was sideways in her esophagus, with the little zipper pull sticking straight out. There was no doubt what it was. The x-ray technician kept calling out to people in the department to come and see the zipper on the x-ray! My daughter’s face was just as red as the chenille vest the zipper had escaped from!

So, long story a little shorter, there was nothing to be done except wait for the zipper to pass through her digestive tract and hope it didn’t get stuck. We had to keep an eye out for the zipper over the weekend to see if it passed. Now the best part of the story, other than the fact that she learned to listen to what mom said, is that, while I rarely went any place during my weekends with no kids, that weekend I had plans and plane tickets out of town. The kids were staying with their father and their step-mother. So I didn’t have to watch for the zipper. Susie’s step-mom was the one that had the pleasure of donning gloves and examining every bowel movement that weekend until the zipper passed! And it did.

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Blogging From A to Z

In 1999, my three kids and I went on one of our last road trips together. That summer we drove from Los Angeles to Vancouver, British Columbia. This trip was a little easier for me because my son had just begun driving and was able to help me with that, as well as with distracting and occupying his younger sisters.

On our way north, we drove first to San Jose and stayed with my sister for a couple of days before heading to Canada. When we got started, we drove along U.S. 101 from San Francisco across the Oregon border just north of Crescent City then headed east to Interstate 5 which we would take the rest of the way into Canada. When we got near Medford, Oregon on Interstate 5, we began to see signs for an attraction called Wildlife Safari. According to the billboards, it wasn’t too far away. We hadn’t heard of it previously but the signs promised a drive-thru experience with wildlife and a zoo, as well as a gift shop and cafeteria. We decided we would keep driving until we got to the turn off for Wildlife Safari instead of stopping for a rest in Medford.

When we arrived we learned that we would drive through the gated and fenced in grounds in our own car. We would be able to drive through at our leisure and were allowed to open windows in the car, except in the bear and lion dens where our windows had to be rolled up. We didn’t know what to expect but my kids, all three of them, have always loved wildlife and were excited to go through. So we did.



We were not disappointed in the least. The park was everything it had promised and so much more. The animals came up to the car windows in many cases and in some cases, we actually had to stop the car and wait for the wildlife to get out of our way. We saw girafffes, zebras, camels, yaks, bison, emus, and a variety of different deer, sheep, and goats. We saw monkeys, black bears, brown bears, tigers, lions, leopards, and just about any kind of animal you might expect to see on safari. The animals are grouped in “continent” manor so that you would see the same animals grouped together that you would actually see in proximity to one another in the wild. The kids were mesmerized. Because we were able to move at our own pace (under ten miles per hour) we were able to take a lot of pictures. The kids were able to take off their seat belts and change places to get a better view any time they wanted to.


When we finished the drive and got out of the car to head to the mini zoo and gift shop, the kids were so enthusiastic that they wanted to go again. However, we didn’t have time because the park was about to close and we had already lost three hours of driving time. We were determined to make it to Portland that evening. The whole rest of the trip, over a week’s time, the kids kept talking about Wildlife Safari and asked if we could go through again on the way home. We agreed that if everyone cooperated in getting up and leaving Vancouver on time, we should be able to arrive at Wildlife Safari just before the last drive through of the day. So now we had a goal to shoot for.

We did it! Everyone cooperated. We were able to leave Vancouver by 8 am and we arrived in Winston, Oregon at the gates of Wildlife Safari in time to drive through. This time they each had a brand new disposable camera to take pictures with as we drove into the park. Once again, they were just as mesmerized the second time as they had been the first time. This time we saw different animals; a lot of the same animals were out but we did see some that we had missed the first time through.

Since 1999, Wildlife Safari has become a favorite stop between San Jose and Portland. In fact, there have been several times when we drove from the San Francisco bay area to Wildlife Safari and back to California – a special trip to a special place. If I count back, I believe I have been to Wildlife Safari at least fourteen times! It has changed a lot since the first time we were there but it is still the same place with a lot of the same operating procedures. Some things have gotten better and some things have gotten commercial (for example, they now have “encounters” where you can get up close and personal with some of the animals for an extra fee) but it is still a wonderful experience! And now my grandchildren are enjoying it, too.

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Blogging From A to Z

We had a gas stove in the kitchen. It was almost always on. Good things came from that stove and the best part was that my mother was always there, at the stove, near the stove, using the stove and wherever my mother was, I wanted to be.

My mother made flour tortillas for every meal. She was in the kitchen making the dough–the masa–before the rest of us were out of bed in the mornings. When I was dressed and ready, I would go into the kitchen and watch her. I sat at the red formica table and watched my mother bring the rolling pin out then she would dust the table with flour and take one of the little dough balls and set it in the middle of the flour. She’d begin to move the wooden rolling pin back and forth over the little ball, flattening it, turning it over, and flattening it some more until it grew big enough and thin enough to cook. By then the black cast iron griddle (called a comal) was hot enough to cook the tortillas and my mom would put the thin layer of masa on the griddle for just a few seconds then flip it over. She would spend the rest of the time walking the four steps between the stove and the table to flip the tortillas over as she kept rolling out more tortillas to cook. I was always scared that she would burn her fingers when she turned the tortillas over.

I loved the smell of tortillas cooking on the griddle. Tortillas, when they are cooking, smell of warmth and freshness. The smell meant that when the first one was cooked and had cooled a little, my mom would let me have it. I would be the first one to take the round flat tortilla and fold it in half, tear a piece off of it and put it in my mouth, tasting all the work and the love my mother had put into that one perfect tortillas.

I was always amazed that none of the tortillas burned while she rolled out more and more. It all looked so easy. Somehow my mother timed it just right. While she rolled out the tortillas, I would sit at the table and talk to her, asking her questions about what she was doing and why she was doing it and what would happen if she did it differently. She would answer my questions and sometimes she’d laugh and ask me why I was so full of questions. I asked her once why her fingers didn’t burn when she turned the tortillas over and she said it was because she didn’t use the fingers. She said she used her fingernails. That’s why she couldn’t ever wear pretty polish on her fingernails, because if she did, it would burn. Another time I asked her how she got the tortillas so round and perfect. My mom said the secret was to run the rolling pin over and back just one time, then to turn the tortilla a little bit before running the rolling pin over and back again. She said you had to keep doing it like that, roll over and back, flip, roll over and back, flip, until the tortilla was ready to cook. Sometimes she would tell me I should run and play outside with my brothers and sisters but I never did. I liked to be inside, with my mother, next to her, talking to her and learning from her. As she cooked on the white O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove, my mother and I kept each other from being lonely.

When the tortillas were all done, enough for the nine of us, she would put everything away and start on the food. I got to stay and watch and when I was old enough, I got to help her with the cooking. That’s how I learned to make tortillas and my three sisters didn’t. That’s how I learned to make the enchiladas, tostadas, the menudo, chile verde, and all the other foods our family loved to eat every day and my sisters didn’t. That’s how I got to spend many hours talking to my mother and listening to her, learning from her and letting her learn about me, and my sisters didn’t.

My mother did other things in the kitchen and I learned to do those, too. I remember that she used to iron in one corner of the kitchen and I remember her sewing our clothes when we tore holes into them. But one special thing that I loved most that my mother did in our pink kitchen was sing. She almost always had the radio on and when the radio was on, she would be singing. She knew the words to all of the songs and when there was a new one, one she didn’t know, she would take a piece of paper and write the words then she’d put it next to the radio until the next time they played the same song and when they did, she’d rush over to the radio, grab the paper and write down more of the words until she had them all. Then the next time the new song was on, she could sing it without looking at the paper. I loved hearing the music but I loved hearing my mother sing more! I learned the words to some of the songs and sometimes I would try to sing them too. One song I liked was called El Caballo Blanco. It told the story of a white horse that escaped and ran from one city to the next, admiring the countryside of Mexico. I liked that song because I had been to some of those places. When the white horse died in Ensenada at the end of the song, it always made me sad.

Sometimes my mother would take me by the hands and twirl me around the kitchen as the music played and as her mouth sang the words to the songs. My mother loved music. She loved singing. She loved dancing.

When I think about my mother, these are the times I like to remember. Those days were filled with wonder and love and the promise of good things.

(This previously appeared as The Gas Stove on this blog.)

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