When I think of my mother two versions tend to predominate. The first tends to be the Mom of my most recent memories – the last several years of her life after my father had died. She’s the mom that I visited either at home or at my sister’s, or the mom that came out to San Diego to spend a couple of weeks with me from time to time.
The other version that comes to mind is the mom that I had growing up. She was the person that methodically ran the Ancestral Betz Home: cleaning, cooking, shopping, bills, educational oversight. Like many women of her generation, Mom pretty much did it all. It’s strange to realize that when I was in grade school that she was pretty much in the same era of life as I am now. Of course then she seemed “old”, whereas I am certainly still young and know how to have fun.
My Mom wasn’t one to talk about herself very much (actually, neither was my Dad, so who knows who I’ve inherited this trait from) and it often seemed even by her own account, Mom’s life consisted of her childhood in rural Delaware and then fast-forwarded to The Day She Met My Dad – a well-dissected blind date that was arranged by her mother and according to Mom was “nothing special”.
Recently though, I’ve been thinking about that time in-between that always seemed to be overlooked – the adult woman who had a life before my dad. I remember having a conversation with my parents one time about traveling and remarking that they’d never vacationed outside of the US.
- Mom perked up, “Oh, I’ve been to Mexico.”
- “Really?” I asked.
- “Yeah, once my girlfriends and I took my father’s car and drove to Juarez,” she said as if this was as common as a trip down the shore.
- “From New Jersey?” How come?”
- “Oh, we wanted to go see what a bullfight was like.”
- “What!?” I was becoming a little unmoored.
- “Oh… it was so bloody. And the crowd was crazy.”
I’ve been thinking about this trip and that girl a lot this year because the idea of my Mom going on a 1940s 4,000 mile road-trip to Mexico really doesn’t mesh too well with the proper homemaker and senior citizen versions that predominate my memories.
Who were these friends? By the time I was growing up, I don’t remember her having a lot of close girlfriends. Where did they stop along the way? I think she mentioned that they stopped in New Orleans for a night, but I couldn’t get any details out of her other than that stop helped her decide that she wanted to go back there for her honeymoon. Clearly, there were stories there.
Being Mom she didn’t want to talk about herself a lot and would change the subject, but I find that I keep wondering what that trip was like and the stories from it that she kept to herself. If it had been 65 years later, would there have been embarrassing Facebook pictures to explain away? My guess is yes. At least, I certainly hope so.
She’s been gone for more than six years now and I think if I had a chance to talk to her again, I don’t know that I’d reminisce about some family Christmas. I think I’d ask about that trip and that girl in her early 20s in the 1940s.
I bet she was a great girl to know.