What I Have Discovered
Is that people want
To go on a journey with you
Something that touches them deep inside
An element of
Surprise, Honesty, and Resilience
In The Beginning: My entrance into this world was in a city far away from my grandparent’s small village of Barranco. I was born on the 13th of December on a snowy day. Lots of snow! Somehow that sounds comforting to me. Years later, Janis talked about how the snow kept coming down from the view of her window in the hospital.
I imagine I was cozy and warm, wrapped in flannel blankets, just a bundle of innocence. I can’t imagine what I looked like. There are no baby pictures of me. This doesn’t sit well with me. A huge let down, not one baby picture. It made me feel inconsequential. When babies are born, especially their toddler years, many pictures are taken of them. At least for most people.
I was born on the 13th, a prime number only divisible by itself and one. Maybe my number was lucky. Now that I look back and hold this tender baby in my arms I compare myself to this tiny new-born.
After my birth, we came home. It didn’t take long to see that a new baby wasn’t going to solve the serious abusive issues they would have continually faced. There was no other choice but to escape the peril of hell. Prescind with the hope of a better life.
She waited for him. Not because she loved him, but because she was scared of him; she was also afraid of what she was contemplating.
He walked in through the kitchen door wearing his black short sleeved turtleneck and his dark sunglasses. Olive skinned, handsome, slender and buff. Staggering a bit towards her, wanting to give her a kiss.
The smell of his breath was nauseating. Mr. Playboy full of charm and not much more than that. She turned her face away from him. She rejected him and he felt that deep inside. His need for affection was rejected. Now he was asking about the baby.
An Arduous Burden
Of His Infuriated Wife
A Cold Weight
In His Heart
Enigmatic and Blasting
The Fool He was
“Where’s my Lorie?” He asked?
“She’s sleeping Arthur; don’t wake her up.”
He staggered back taking his sunglasses off and placing them on the kitchen table. This reminded her of his enormous charm when they met, asking her to dance. All eyes were on them, turning her rhythmically to the beat in a pirouette like a ballerina, grabbing her waist while throwing his head back and smiling. He had center stage with Janis. It was obvious she was not from the city. Inexperienced with just the charms of a fallacy ready to snatch her. Giving rise to his gilded, specious charismatic charm. She was completely pure and very impressionable.
Walked With Swagger
Among Shadows Dancing
A Piquant Glance
Eyes Locked Awakening
Desire The Craving
“Okay, okay, I’ll leave her alone. Why are you so mad? I don’t deserve this when I come home.”
She furiously walks away from him to the living room, feeling his anger rising.
Slurring and hurrying to grab her arm, “Janis don’t walk away from me.”
“Let go of me Arthur, or I’ll tell your father.”
“You’re not going to tell him anything.”
He grabbed her by her hair and slapped her on the face. This was the moment she had been waiting for.
“Arthur stop it! Lorie is sleeping, stop it!”
Now she was out of breath with another confrontation to add to the rest. Her will to survive was immense. She had to mollify his baneful temper. Appease his baleful antics.
“I’ll make you a sandwich, you need to eat.”
“That’s right calm him.”
This time he backed down, hungover, but still inebriated from all-night drinking. She made the sandwich with the fresh roast beef she had picked up at the deli, while thinking of the young pharmacist who was only too ready to help her. Janis assumed he was a really nice, educated guy.
“My thought at this very moment, he might have been a better choice.
He finished his sandwich and she suggested that he lay down and relax.
“I’ll lay down with you after I clean up.”
Well that sounded good enough for him. On a full belly he was staggering less. He fell asleep almost immediately. Looking outside through the kitchen window feeling inside her soul beaten down once again. Now the lachrymose of tears started rolling down her cheeks; she turned and sat at the kitchen table crying uncontrollably. This was it, this was the perfect time. She wiped her tears away and breathed deeply. Hurriedly, she closed all windows and doors. He lay on the bed, drunk and snoring. She turned on the stove, oven, and heater after closing the pilots. The gas started to permeate through the house. She picked up Lorie from the crib. She had packed very few things, leaving almost everything behind because it didn’t matter anymore, and they left hurriedly. She walked to the bus stop holding Lorie and waited there. Adrenaline was pumping through her veins while she tried to calm her nerves. They were escaping. A chance for a better life.
She was too young to know what was happening but it didn’t make it any less real when Janis told her the story many years later.
They sat waiting for the bus. Then she started to think about what she was doing and about Lorie. What would happen to Lorie if she was charged with murder? They went back and she turned off all the pilots, opened the windows and doors. He was still snoring. But they left after that day and they never returned. Any baby pictures were left behind.
Into Rivulets Of
They Clash By Night
No Sung Hero’s
No Heroine’s Sweetest Ballet
Backfire Of Oppressed
Under my grandmother’s watchful eye…
My clearest memories of Barranco were of the five adobe houses built adjacent to each other on my grandparent’s property. Next to the entrance, on the east side, there was a small orchard of blooming apricot, apple, and plum trees. One of my favorite treats was to eat green apricots with salt. I could never have enough salt and to this day, it’s the same.
In Barranco, I had some of my fondest memories as a child. My grandmother was immaculate. Her kitchen smelled of freshly baked bread or tortillas. The black stove was priceless to my grandparents; logs of wood would go in to be burned and heat the entire kitchen. My grandmother would make oatmeal and I loved the sweet taste of honey with real cream adding more sumptuous flavor. My grandmother brewed the Folgers coffee that she and my grandfather enjoyed with their morning breakfast. There, life was great! I had all the freedom as soon as I could walk and talk.
As I grew up with all the freedom a child shouldn’t possibly need. It was during one of those delightful family gatherings where I tested my grandmother’s watchful eye. Everyone was there, from all parts of Arizona and even California. I loved it all. I started feeling unwell. My grandmother was obviously concerned, touching my forehead with her long fingered hands. My hands are like hers. They confirmed it; a fever. My Aunt Maggie gave me Bayer Children’s aspirin.
In those days everyone was so close and happy that even running to the outhouse to go to the bathroom seemed like a party; and it was. Outside, those who waited to go to the bathroom, started slapping different parts of exposed skin killing the devious mosquitoes that landed to suck one dry of one’s blood. Afterwards, it was the extreme itching that would drive one crazy. Mosquito repellent must have been one of those things that was still in the invention time machine.
“A flashback came to me, I remember the Sears catalog pages used as wall paper inside the outhouse. There were two seats (a multi stall) when you have to share in this little house. Nick and Janis weren’t present, perhaps taking full advantage of all the babysitters around laughing, singing, eating, and carrying on as they did.”
So the world literally started spinning while petting one of the neighbors’ dogs who invited himself to the party and the world continued to spin. My grandmother was watching me and asked me how I was feeling. But I was just a child and describing symptoms wasn’t my forte’ at that age. Then my grandmother asked Aunt Maggie where the bottle of Children’s Bayer aspirin was. Aunt Maggie and the older cousins really didn’t know. So that’s when everyone panicked. Everyone started looking for the bottle and they eventually found it, empty.
I remember how I struggled with the top to pry it open with my teeth. Suddenly I took center stage and the audience seemed rather peculiar to me. They were all staring with such worry and concern on their faces. No one knew what to do. The nearest hospital was at least an hour’s drive away. Then my grandmother waved her hand and everyone calmed down. She walked towards me and asked me to open my mouth. My grandmother’s fingers went down my throat and the result was an obvious pink frothy splatter that spilled onto the ground.
“I thought of Linda Blair in the “The Exorcist” remembering the possessed actress spewing out green. Mine, was at least pink.”
My fondest memory was with my grandfather sitting on his lap, he would take a teaspoon of coffee and ask me to blow on it. Then came the reward of drinking it. This occurred about fifteen times in a row and suddenly I was as happy, voracious, and rambunctious as any child could be with 15 teaspoons of strong coffee in her system. I’d jump off his lap and feel enormously fierce and happy. Just like Mighty Mouse.
We almost escaped the past… Mother
Then you decided
To repeat it again
This time at my expense
Moving back with my grandparents was the safest bet. This was when a rare and wonderful opportunity presented itself to my mother. Janis found a job and worked for Ms. Georgia O’Keeffe. Ms. O’Keeffe owned two homes, one in Abiquiu and the other in Ghost Ranch. In Ghost Ranch, Ms. O’Keeffe found her peace and the enchantment of New Mexico’s landscapes which she painted, thus increasing her fame. Here my mother learned a lot working for Ms. O’Keeffe and her eccentric life. With my mother driving, they drove frequently to Santa Fe. These outings were primarily to pick up food from the larger grocery stores and specific cuts of meat from the butchers and run last minute errands.
I remembered listening to fascinating stories later in life. Especially one that took place at Ms. O’Keeffe’s home in Ghost Ranch, remembering the wild life preserve where interesting wild animals were on display, a raccoon, a black bear, roadrunner, mountain lion, and rattlesnakes. It was virtually a tiny zoo.
One day, my mother took me to work with her. To Ms. O’Keeffe’s home in Ghost Ranch. Obviously, this had already been pre-approved before the visit. I was probably three years old or a little younger. As my mother described it, we were in the kitchen when someone had let the two guard dogs into the house. They were chows and quite temperamental. They sniffed me immediately, the next thing as my mother described it, she grabs me and places me on top of the refrigerator. The chows came charging in jumping up at the refrigerator and at me. At some point someone, my mother, another worker, or maybe even Ms. O’Keeffe quieted the dogs and put them outside.
Ms. O’Keeffe was not the kind of person to sit idly by when someone would’t adhere to her standards and rules. Distant family members came for a visit. They had a nine year old boy who pretty much sounded like Damien from the movie “Omen”. The way my mother described this boy, I must have been a saint compared to him. It was dinner time and Ms. O’Keeffe had had the staff prepare something special. This little boy was complaining about the food and banging the silverware on his plate, table, and glass. Within seconds he tipped over a glass full of milk. In my defense I didn’t complain I only gagged in my tumultuous scene with Nick; as you shall read. It’s not to be missed because I was a clever girl. Going back to Ms. O’Keeffe, she stood up from her table and very directly said to the nine-year-old boy, “If you can’t behave and don’t like the food, you may leave”. She told him again, “Leave my table and go to your room.” and he did. Rules were rules.
Time was going by splendidly in Barranco. As little as I was I remember helping my grandmother pull the weeds that would grow along the path to the outhouse with the Sear’s catalog pages as wall paper. This was not only an exercise in a good work ethic but it humbled me; and it still continues to. We sorted out small rocks and pebbles tossing them to the side until the path was like soft sand on an ocean beach. And as all our lives improved, Ms. O’Keeffe was very impressed with my mother. She liked Janis’s work ethic and demeanor.
“Janis”, she said, “How would you like to go to college and get a degree? I will pay for your college tuition, living expenses, and help your parents with Lorie’s expenses.”
“I ask now, how expensive could a little girl be?” Ms. O’Keeffe was obviously a strong advocate for educating oneself.
But Ms. O’Keeffe made it clear, “I would ask you to return to Ghost Ranch and continue to work for me.”
Here it was, the Holy Grail, an opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to go to college and get educated. Life always presents the irony and the temptation to do otherwise. My mother went to a dance with Aunt Olivia and her husband. That night she met Nick who was back from college. Janis was stunning and petite. She had a beautiful figure and knew how to dress with elegance. You could say Nick looked like Brad Pitt and behaved like Anthony Quinn. Janis, on the other hand, was a combination of Ava Gardner and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
With those kinds of looks and continuing to date, they fell in love or was it lust? Out went the college degrees with the baby in the bath water. Nick only had one year left and he never forgot about that and would always talk about the importance of an education. But my mother and Nick knew better and ended up getting married. I remember looking at that picture on the day of their wedding; Janis looked beautiful. She wore a white chiffon dress with the top in gold sequins and a short veil with a tiara. I was hoping and I still do to find a picture of me in the center of them; making it a family of three. But there isn’t such a picture except for how I imagined it would be; me between them.
After a short-lived honeymoon, they started getting back to the reality of life. Problems surfaced and presented themselves immediately. In defense of Nick and Janis, they were too young and they soon would learn each other’s vices. I, watching them and making my own opinions of their constant clashes. One who had to drink, the other who hated it and had to complain to me and the one drinking. Nick shrugging it off, clearly not taking it seriously. But it was serious, serious enough to change and affect our lives continuously. Nick’s alcoholic problem worsened after getting married or at least it seemed that way. To his credit and our piece of a normal life, he was a functional alcoholic and a very good worker. Janis’s worth ethic matched his. They were raised in the same culture, on farms in two very distinct small towns only 35 miles apart. Neither one of them knew the other existed until they met on that fateful night, a dance, with the full moon casting the perfect lighting and butterflies churning in their stomachs. As beautiful as Janis was petite and slender with long dark brown hair to her waist. Nick I’m sure feeling the intensity within a man to be with her, my beautiful mother.
So their work ethic matched. But was this enough to keep their marriage afloat? It was and it wasn’t. Nick would drink more as the years went by. My mother would get angrier and become more bitter until all her energy was used to regret most of her life and the choices she had made. She had made the same mistake twice.
Of Bitter Empty
Not A Pretty Site
They Carry It
Their Purpose Within