I think of my mother are an adventurous person. She thought nothing about packing the five of us into a VW bug and heading to British Columbia. Or, when we were more grown, into a station wagon and heading to West Virginia, or Boston.
When she wanted to revamp the kitchen cabinets, but couldn’t afford to pay a professional to do it, she took a woodworking class at the adult school, and built 18 feet of cabinet, with a Lazy Susan.
She was adventurous, and very practical about the steps required to set out on the adventure, and also a dreamer who sometimes struggled when reality did not match her dream.
I’m going to read an autobiographical sketch my mother wrote, probably some time about 1983, I’m not sure when. She conveys better than I can the blend of practical adventurer and inveterate dreamer she was. I think you’ll also see some of her sense of humor in her writing.
I was graduated from High School in 1945 in Sheridan, Wyoming a small town in northeastern Wyoming.
I thought about going to nursing school after that, but nice girls didn’t do that — they became teachers or got married and raised children. So I went away to college in Hastings, Nebraska — where I really had a ball. I think I must have majored in campustry. I took only what was interesting to me — music, French, Spanish, and literature.
I came to California in 1947 and fell in love with the warm weather — and no snow to shovel. I graduated from Glendale College in 1949, majoring in music & literature, and got married.
My husband was just out of the Navy, and between us we couldn’t have dug up bus fare out of town, but I started making plans. It was going to be a beautiful life: I would have a house, a car, a baby grand piano, and 5 children — not necessarily in that order.
My first child, a daughter, was born in 1950 and by the time she was two we had a car and a house — not bad for 24 years old.
There were 4 more children in the next 13 years, another daughter and 3 sons. I worked a little here & there but never steadily until 1961, when I started a business: Reseda Nurses Registry, and an all medical telephone answering service. I sold this business when we moved to Simi Valley in 1963 — I needed to spend more time with my family. In about 1965, I was contacted by the President of CNA Dist #5 in LA about running their Registry for them — which I did for about 8 years.
By then I had my piano and I was ready to retire. Everything according to plan. I didn’t work for several years — I took piano lessons and enjoyed being home with my children. I was fortunate in that I had beautiful gifted children — just like the plan — involved in music — playing football, drill team etc.
My oldest daughter graduated from County USC School of Nursing. My younger daughter finished high school at 16 and went to work for State Farm Insurance in T.O. She wanted to go to night school, but was a little shy, so I told her I would go with her, if she would pick something we would both enjoy — so we took conversational Spanish.
That got her started and she went on her way, and so did I — more Spanish and piano. Then I discovered the Simi Valley Adult School, where I studied oil paining and stained glass and cabinet building — all rather expensive hobbies —. So I took a part time job with Brentwood Nurses Registry — to support my habit.
By now, my youngest daughter was a full time student and always looking for a part time job. Finally, she took the nurse’s aide course at the Adult School and loved it. In fact, she talked me into taking it. I finished, but was still working at the Registry. Anyway, one day, Simi Doctors’ Hospital called her to work and she couldn’t go — but she told them she’d send her mother. And that’s how I started working in a hospital.
In 1978, my husband had open heart surgery (6 bypasses) — That wasn’t in my plan! — but he recovered nicely and was back at work in 3 weeks — so that was O.K. and I went on my merry way.
Then, in 1981 Jana was killed in a car accident — that wasn’t in my plan either — and it wasn’t O.K. — I met a Catholic Priest at the hospital who has influenced my life forever. Over the next few months I began to realize that I had been living in fairyland for 52 years. Things were not always going to work out the way I had planned. Life is so fragile. I may not have my husband forever, indeed, I might not have him tomorrow, and I had better prepare myself to take care of me.
She trails off there.…
You see, mom was a courageous dreamer, and often, but not always, ready to take the next challenge.
Despite the fact that she disappeared from us over the last decade, I was comforted that her adventurous dreaming, her sense of humor, and her love of music were the last things to go.