“Mother And Son” by Mr. Lu, in San Jose, California, 1987.
My father was a yodeling cowboy; my mother wanted a girl who played the violin; that would be me. I grew up in the countryside a few miles east of Hollister, California. My ancestors on both side of the family were California pioneers. My Gramma Gallaway sat me on her generous lap and told stories of Tiburcio Vasquez coming up to the old homestead for milk and cheese. Gramma and her brother Will would hide behind their mother Sara’s skirts, peeking out at the handsome bandito who always waved goodbye with a flourish, “Muchas gracias, madre bonita.”
The mystery of discovery pulls me into the untold story. Show up at my doorstep, come in out of the rain and tell me about it.
I am a 10th+ generation Californian, long-time member of Los Californianos.
~ Frances, BA Literature/Creative Writing, UCSC 1995
A personal history can be chronological — a “big story” —
or it can be many little stories whose through-line is just the voice of the teller. Here is one like that…
Chabot College – spring, 1963
Monday morning. I am wearing a red top, short white skirt, not too high heals. Michael is teaching at 10 o’clock, English 1A. He drives up, parks. The Aston Martin is out of place at this junior college, Michael is out of place. Beautifully out of place. Brooks Brothers, clean shaven, baby face, the new teacher could be in danger if that’s the way he wants it. A class of women: new students out of high school, need-to-get-a-job mothers here to get educated for the job market, house wives; I used to be one.
I wait until Michael opens the door and gets out, gently closes it, walks over to the coffee stand. I follow at a good distance. We order coffee, me first. He really looks good, good and distant. I think, “I’m your new student, but you don’t know it yet.” I put cream and sugar in my coffee, stir it carefully, take a sip and spill it all over my totally white skirt. I slip away, spilling coffee as I try to get to my car. That’s the last time I ever wore a totally white anything.
Wednesday, English 1A, Michael. I get there early, take a seat near the back of the room, stain free clothes, comfortable on this mother-of-six divorced woman looking for Godot, waiting for Michael.