Mother Tongue

Growing up, I heard a lot of Spanish spoken. My mother, the oldest of seven children moved from Quito, Ecuador to Los Angeles when she was almost fifteen. My grandmother, who until very recently I had never appreciated for the brave woman she was, came by boat to the United States with her seven children, one niece, two maids, and speaking no English. My grandfather remained in Quito to work, coming to Los Angeles twice a year to visit his family. This always struck me as a rather unconventional arrangement, but apparently it worked for them as they were married until they died, a year apart, in their eighties. At the time the family moved from Ecuador it was customary if one could afford it, to send your children to the United States or England for high school. With seven children to educate, my grandfather thought it was a better idea to move the family to the United States so all the children could learn English. The plan was to follow that move with a move to France so they could learn French as well, but World War II intervened and they never made it across the Atlantic.

Wigged Out

Seated backstage with 5 other 10- year old classmates, each of our faces had been whitewashed by Mrs. Sato, our Japanese dance instructor as she prepared us for our recital. I could feel the wet sponge as it covered my cheeks, forehead, chin and my neck. Although none of our families relocated by the US government during WWII was allowed personal cameras, shortwave radios or teaching a Japanese language class, cultural endeavors such as flower arrangements or teaching Japanese odori (formal dance) was permitted.

Made To Order

Both of my brothers and I were born in the midst of the Great Depression (between 1931 and 1936).  My father had worked as the foreman of a maintenance crew for the Union Pacific Railroad Company and they provided company housing located in Nacin, an isolated rural area in eastern Oregon, miles apart from friends and neighbors. Our playground was the wind swept dusty backyard dotted with scrub tumbleweeds or the nearby swift flowing Deschutes River where we would wade along its banks. By the time my older brother was 5, he’d wandered over the surrounding hills, often accompanied by the family goat. Rather than the dangers from traffic or crime associated with the cities, the perils he faced were prodding and disturbing; a sleeping rattler or nearly losing his footing at the edge of a ravine.

Nobody Knows Me

It was the story stored in her soul that only she and her beloved husband Ray were allowed to see. She ultimately gave me a glimpse, but only when it was too late.

Walking Up Hill

The first day I walked into my Physics I A class at UCLA I knew I was in trouble. In the class of more than 100 students I saw only two other women. Everyone I talked to seemed eager, confident. Most had already taken a physics class in high school. Many were planning to be engineers.

A Walk on the Wild Side

There must have been some wild stormy nights in Los Angeles where I grew up. I should have at least a few memories of looking out of the huge north facing picture window in the living room and seeing storms pass through or snow collecting on the distant San Bernardino Mountains or at least lightning occasionally crackling across the night sky in waves or forks, but I have none.

Saurkraut

Unsurprisingly, I found myself resistant to the idea of eating sauerkraut as a regular part of my diet.  Alba, the physical/massage therapist that I see had been urging me for months to eat sauerkraut——so good for the digestion. She said that she eats it regularly, and that her children eat it as well. As a matter of fact she has a friend who makes it for her. Alba pays for the organic ingredients (cabbage) and the friend then prepares it for her in batches. Delicious, she assures me.

In Flight

We have boarded in Rome.  He is already seated in his leather Business Class reclining window seat, a glass of champagne on the little pull-out table. I have the aisle seat and nod to him, offer a brief greeting and busy myself with settling in for the long trans-Atlantic flight. The flight attendant comes around and –it being only 10:00 in the morning –opt for orange juice.  My companion, probably in his 50s, leans forward and takes a second glass of champagne. The attendant pauses, looking intently at him, and says, “Weren’t you just here yesterday?”  Oh, those business fliers, I think, back and forth, up and down.  No wonder he needs two glasses of champagne before breakfast.  He nods at the attendant, who is poised to offer a snappy reply, and says softly,  “My mother has died – while I was flying to Rome.  I got the message when I landed.  I have to go home– right away.”  The attendant, visibly jolted, takes a couple of beats and offers her condolences.