Family, Grief, Latino family tradition, Memoir, Mothers, poetry, Strong Women, Travel

Hurricane Mom – Memoir, Part 3

Poem to Mother by Sharon Doubiago
Poem to Mother by Sharon Doubiago

 

Day’s flutter pass like wind blown pages of a book, occasionally landing on a chapter of happiness or sorrow.

Mom’s children leave. Each daughter marries. The hours spent on them are now hours gained to contemplate middle age, not that anyone would guess she was in her mid-life, nor would she correct them.

Grandchildren come into the world as her oldest siblings depart. Men of integrity, courage, and tradition. Orphan men who provided for siblings survived the Great Depression, and wars. Men who married young sweethearts, raised families, and weathered changing times.

The winds of life blow with the ferocity only death can bring. Mom’s brothers died soon after retirement, ravaged by cancer, the affliction of her parents. Their departure like uprooted trees in the landscape of her life.

Her career becomes her greatest pleasure, counseling the unemployed, connecting people with goals, encouraging youth, instilling hope. Evenings filled with meetings, groups of various acronyms, with one purpose: equality. Now there is a community pool, educational centers, and non-profit organizations serving people.

The pages keep turning. There is no slowdown in mid-life. Mom worked until 67, left after a mass shooting at her state office left co-workers dead, injured. Left her with post-traumatic syndrome. She thought about going back to college, for her Master’s degree, but serves on the Grand Jury instead.

Wanderlust struck. So much life, so much to live for. Egypt, Jordan, places we can no longer visit, were first on the agenda. Spain, Portugal, Canada, France, England, Mexico, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and half of the United States. Places visited in books of her youth or on TV.

She rescues working daughters, son, and walks grandkids to school, makes them snacks, watches them grow. Her home is open to her children when troubles strike. None of us ever go it alone.

Mom’s life temporarily shuts down when her youngest sister died, the one she protected, the one who helped her through every pothole in the journey. Cancer. Again. A light went out, brightness dimmed. The absence of phone calls, trips to casinos, shopping, laughing with her sister leave Mom depressed for two years.

Her eyesight dims like her joy. A prognosis of legal blindness curtails her driving, her independence and link to distant friends and extended family. Worse, it’s difficult to read.

Now family reunions take place in her dreams, between recurring nightmares. Pain fades, aches remain, good times are remembered, wistful visits to previous chapters of life.

The first great-grandchild is born, many grand nieces/nephews, celebrations of sacraments, birthdays, milestones. Tortillas, turkey, tamales, everything celebrated with food and family, traditions kept alive.

And the pages turn.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

Click here for part 1 and 2 of “Hurricane Mom.”

 

Children, Family

The Firemen on Christmas Eve

1932 Fire Truck-arkcity.org
1932 Fire Truck-arkcity.org

Amid the shopping carts, Black Friday, Walmart warriors, and the mounds of boxes we collect, we sometimes forget (make that I sometimes forget) how Christmas was for our parents and grandparents.

My mother loves to shop and go for a “looky-loo.” Today she’s out at Costco, the place I cannot enter upon pain of claustrophobia. Sometimes I wonder why she has to buy so much, especially since she grew up very poor. But it may be for just that reason.

Mom shared her Christmas Eve memories and through them, I relate back to the real reason for the season. This is one of her stories:

Every Christmas Eve morning, since I can remember, the firemen came to my barrio of Little Silao, in Pomona (CA). This Christmas was special. This was 1932 and the middle of the Great Depression. FDR was the president. 

Times were hard, but my family was lucky. My mother had a vegetable garden, fruit, and walnut trees in the backyard, rabbits and chickens too. We had enough to eat, barely enough for clothing, and no money for toys. I was four and wanted a doll.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree that year, but we did have a little table in the living room which mama decorated for the arrival of baby Jesus. She bent tree branches to form a small tent and added little green fans of pine needles over the branches to form a shelter. Large and tiny pinecones and red berries decorated the sides, pine needles were scattered at the entrance. An empty wooden manger sat in front of this small cave among the pine boughs. This looked very pretty and it smelled good too, fresh and woodsy.

Perched on the worn wooden chair against the living room window, I scanned the street in front of my house. A shiny red fire truck turned into Newman Street, my street. Firemen, in their uniforms, rode on the running boards of the truck. They stopped five houses away from our place.

One of them climbed up to the top of the truck and handed blue, gold, and red boxes to another fireman and he handed them to another one who stood on the sidewalk.

“Here they come, here they come! Papa, mama, Catarino, Jose, Concha, they’re coming.” I almost fell off the rickety chair.

I had to tell the others about the firemen and the Christmas gifts. I ran from room to room shouting their arrival. My brothers and sister ran out of the bedroom, my mama with baby Adela walked out of the kitchen.

“Maria, no grites. Sientense por favor.”

She didn’t like me yelling and told me to sit down.

Catarino was the oldest at 10 years, Jose was eight, Concha six, and the baby was one-year-old. Everyone sat down, except me. I ran back to my chair at the window.

“Here they come!” I shrieked and ran out the front door onto the sidewalk and everyone followed.

My cousins, across the street, were already outside jumping up and down shouting, “They’re here, they’re here.”

Maybe I would get a ball and jacks, real ones. Concha and I were tired of playing jacks with washed apricot pits and an old rubber ball. Maybe I’d get a real doll, one of my very own. That would be better than the paper dolls I cut out from the Sears Catalogue.

The shiny red truck rolled to a stop right in front of my house. The fireman began calling out names, “Concha, Maria, Jose, and Catarina.”

Catarina? That’s a girls name. My brother was “Catarino.” He unwrapped the box and his smile disappeared. It was a doll! He held up the box to give it back to the fireman, but I ran towards him shouting “I want it, I want it.” I got to it before Concha did and ran back into my house.

The doll had a beautiful red dress on with shoes and fluffy hair. I was so happy, I carried my doll the way mama carried baby Adela.

For the life of me, I can’t remember if Catarino took the present meant for me or if the firemen gave him another gift. All I remember was that pretty doll.