December 7th. A day that brings to mind Pearl Harbor. But for me, my first thought is my mom. She was born on December 7th, 1923. She passed away way too young at the age of 63. I’ve missed her every day for the last 27 years. Of my five children, only the two oldest had been born at the time of her death, but they don’t really remember her. They were only four and almost two when she died. I tell myself that she had a hand in picking out my younger three children, especially tucking my daughter in there with her twin brother. I gave my daughter my mother’s first and middle names.
I feel a closeness to my mom every day. I recently started working full time after working part-time at a preschool and subbing for a local school district. Before that I was fortunate enough to be at home with my kids for 25 years. My mom didn’t have that luxury. She would stay at home until we got too far behind in bills and then she would get a job through a temp agency which would invariably turn into an offer for a full-time position. She’d work for a year or two until it seemed we would be okay and then she’d stay home with us until the cycle needed to repeat itself. My pop was always a hard worker, but he had an entrepreneurial spirit which would cause him to be dissatisfied working for someone else. He’d work steady for a few years and then come up with an endeavor he just had to try. He’d give it a go and it would work for a while, but inevitably it would fail and he would locate employment elsewhere. On his last try, he enticed my oldest brother into joining him and this one actually became fruitful for almost twenty years. My father only had an 8th grade education, but he was very intelligent and being bi-lingual didn’t hurt. My mother was a college graduate and also bi-lingual.
She was a freshman college student the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. After she received her degree, she joined the WACs, the Women’s Army Corp. I remember her telling us the story of how she was rejected when she first tried to join because she only weighed 97 pounds and didn’t meet the weight requirement. Someone told her to go home and eat bananas to gain weight. I’m not sure how many she ate or how long it took her, but supposedly she stuffed herself with bananas and went back and passed all the requirements.
During her four years of service, she spent the first two as a secretary in the Pentagon. She never shared with us any of the confidential information she was privy to while working there. She was a very loyal person. Her last two years of service was in the American Embassy in Mexico City. This assignment is what led her to meeting my father. The story goes that at a dinner party he spotted her across the room and told his friend that he was about to meet the girl he was going to marry.
Destiny is a strange thing. Happenstance, serendipity, whatever you want to call it; it was meant to be. They had their first two children in Mexico City. The next was born in Denver. Then, two more south of the border on a Mexican ranch (an early goat farming idea that was ahead of it’s time and did not pan out.) The last three of us were born north of the border where we settled with just a few trips down south over the years to see family. Sad to say that only the older two were able to hang onto their native tongue. Try as she might, my mom was not able to keep all of her kids bi-lingual. It’s still a dream of mine (yes, even at the age of 55) to become a Spanish speaker, but my limited abilities are far from that goal currently.
How I wish that today I was celebrating her 91st birthday with her. I like to think about how different life would have been if she were still alive, how she would have seen all five of my kids graduate from college, how she would have loved that I went to college in my fifties, how proud she would be of my daughter teaching kindergarten, how she would have enjoyed going to the twins tap dancing performances and on and on.
Alright, enough reminiscing. I just wanted to take the time to honor my mother on her birthday. Thank you for reading. I’m sure you feel the same towards your mom at least I hope you do and if she is still living, please take the time to see her and let her know how much you care.