Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

My mother was a traveler.  In fact, it was she who put the traveling gene in me.  I was seven years old, just celebrated my birthday a few months before, when she, my step-father, sister and aunt, packed up our battered up car and headed for California.  I can’t imagine what my grandmother was going through.  Not only were we all leaving her nest, but halfway across the world, too.

I don’t even remember the day I met my step-father but he was a mean man.  He started off okay, wanted my sister and I to call him daddy, the whole nine yards, but boy was he mean.  He’d take a belt to your bare butt in a heartbeat.  I really don’t think I was that bad of a kid, but I do remember over time, my butt must have toughened up as they didn’t hurt as much as the first few go arounds.
I digress because I wanted you to get a little background of this Beverly Hills family (minus the riches) straight out of the back woods and heading for tinsel town and beyond.  My mother always wanted to be a movie star.  She was a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe (someday I’ll have to scan a picture to show you).  The same sultry looks, the hair, the whole nine yards.  Betty Crocker and Leave it to Beaver’s mom she wasn’t, but I loved her love for travel and excitement.

She hated the Eastern Shore so when she fell in love with a young man from Rhode Island who had joined the Army and got orders to Fort Ord, California, she jumped on it.  How long did it take her to throw her kids and belongings in the car?  Wasn’t long.

The trip to California was long but the memories even as a seven-year-old will remain with me forever.  I’ve often thought about going back to Cali.  Visit the old homestead (house is gone but street is still there), walk the path I walked going back and forth to school each day, visit the library (Buena Vista Library) which used to be the old school (Abraham Lincoln Elementary) (picture below).


But when I think of Cali, I think of my mother and how she had these dreams.  My dreams are happening now, but she was always looking, searching and I really don’t think ever finding.  She wanted to be a movie star as I mentioned earlier and when that didn’t happen, she tried it with me.  I grew up with Shirley Temple curls but no dimples.  Cute as a button but no inclination to memorize words and be in front of an audience.  She was the star, I was the wardrobe person.

When my aunt decided Cali life wasn’t for children, she decided to slip out in the middle of the night and board my sister and I on a train and head back to Virginia leaving my mother behind.  I didn’t find out until about 30 years later exactly what happened but it was something she had to do for us, so she told me.

I missed my mother terribly.  I waited and waited for my precious mother to come get me.  But she never came.  Like I said, she hated the Eastern Shore.

I remember sitting on my grandmother’s front stoop as they called it back then (basically meant a bunch of cinder blocks piled on top of each other to create a landing).  I would stare off into into the quiet street out front, hoping one day she’d be pulling into the driveway.  I felt very alone back then even though I had my sister and my grandmother just loved us to pieces and was so happy we were back.

Eventually my mother did return.  Alone.  No husband anymore, just the clothes on her back and what little else she had were stuffed in an overnight bag.  But she was back.  I never knew the circumstances. I never knew why she let my aunt take us so far away from her.  I never knew why she didn’t come back to get us.  Until thirty years later when my aunt revealed to me our family’s secret.  My step-father got angry and called social services and they were coming for us in the morning.
But today isn’t about me.  It’s about my two beautiful grown kids who see a mother who has found her dreams.  Finding your dreams does not mean riches.  Finding your dreams does not mean it’s the end to finding happiness.  Finding happiness is found within and it is through me my children find strength to beat whatever trials come their way.

To you, Mother, for helping me find my path in a weird kinda way.

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