I miss you…

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March is a month of nostalgia for me.

It’s the birth month of my Mom. She said when her birthday came around she was foreshadowed by mine, two weeks earlier. Don’t you think it’s strange the things we remember?

I recently applied to Ontario, Canada for an original birth certificate. I never had one. I couldn’t remember the exact date of birth of neither of my parents. Weird, right? But I remembered the year and the story I’d told over the years of my ancestry on my mother’s side.

Four Curtin brothers came across from Ireland on a ship and married four Callaghan sisters! Two settled in Western Canada and two in the East–Ontario. What are the chances of that? It’s not a story you’d easily forget.

My mother was a beautiful woman who lived in a time when women stayed home and men went to war. And when some of the men came back, they brought the war zone with them. Unfortunately, I remember too much of that.

She was the one I counted on. She would listen to me and always told me I could do and be anything I wanted in life. She died in 2005. I’ve never returned to the town of my birth in Ontario since then.

I hope she’d be proud of the choices I’ve made. I know she understood when I took my heart from the frozen snow in Canada to the sun-filled days of Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

And I was blessed to feel her leaning over my shoulder as I wrote my memoir LOVE The Beat Goes On, she held my hand, every step of the way.

So today I honor her memory and share it with you.

I never told you enough how much I loved you. I miss you, Mom.

 

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Welcome RWISA Author Gwen Plano

Love at First Sight

By Gwendolyn M Plano

 

“It doesn’t seem real. It just doesn’t seem real.” Mom muttered as she ran her hand over the curves of dad’s headstone. Sighing deeply, she stared blankly into the horizon.

After a few minutes, she turned and faced me. “I tell myself that it must be real.” She seemed to want my approval. “The stone says we were married 70 years. It must have happened; I must have been married. But, but…why can’t I remember?” She searched my face for answers.

Stooped from the burden of years now elusive and sometimes vacant, mom held my arm while she walked to either side of the monument.

“I saw him in a dream. Did I tell you that?”

“No, mom, I don’t think you did.”

“He was young, like when we first met.”

“Really? Could you tell me about how you met?”

“How?” Mom’s eyes darted to and fro as she struggled to answer. Then, as though the curtains lifted, she responded.

“Yes…yes, I can tell you how we met.”

“Let’s sit here, mom.” I led her to a cement bench under a tall oak tree near dad’s grave. “Now tell me how the two of you met.”

Mom took a deep breath and began. “It was during the war. I remember it now. It was 1944. There were posters in our high school which asked us to sign up to work at the Consolidated Aircraft factory in San Diego. They needed help building B-24 bombers. We called the bombers the Liberators. My sister and I and several of our girlfriends decided we wanted to help our country. Most of the boys in our class were enlisting in the army or navy. We wanted to do our part too.”

“Like Rosie the Riveter?”

“Oh, yes! We all wanted to be Rosie. Your grandparents didn’t much like the idea, but they knew the families of the other girls, and since we’d be living together and would watch out for one another, they finally agreed. After all, it was the patriotic thing to do.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of mom being Rosie and asked where she lived.

“We lived with Aunt Lena on India Street in San Diego. She put in bunk beds for us. At night, we’d wash out our clothes and tie the pieces to the bedsprings so that they could dry overnight.”

“When we arrived at Consolidated, they gave each of us a uniform – blue pants and jacket. And, we had classes for a week or two. Most of us were assigned the job of riveting. It’s hard to believe, but there were about 20,000 women working at the factory. The assembly line was a mile long, and believe it or not, we built about nine bombers a day. Isn’t that amazing?”

“That is amazing, mom.” Pride glowed from mom’s face, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of her as well.

“I was assigned to the wings. I hate heights, but I’d climb on top of those wings and pretend I was sitting on the hood of a car. I didn’t get afraid that way. One day, when I was sitting up there, holding a riveting gun, your dad came by.”

“Hey,” he said. “What’s your name?” I thought I might be in trouble, but he smiled, so I smiled back.

“It’s Lauretta.”

“Well, Lauretta, you’re doing a great job. If you need anything, let me know. My name’s Jim, and I’m the foreman for this area.”

I put my arm around mom’s shoulder. “My goodness, mom, you were on the wing of a bomber when you met dad?”

“Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But, yes, that’s the first time we talked. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but my sister would whisper to me, “There he is again. I think he likes you. He keeps looking this way.”

Mom lowered her eyes and giggled. “Of course, I didn’t believe her.”

After pausing a bit, she continued. “Your dad started walking home with us in the evening. He lived further up the hill from us, so it wasn’t out of his way. Mind you, I was wearing the company uniform and had my hair in a bandana, so I was hardly a beauty.”

“Anyway, one day he asked if I’d like to come up to his place. And, I was stupid and said okay. That’s when I learned about the facts of life. You know, sex.”

“You didn’t know before then, mom?”

“No, but he taught me that night.” Mom giggled and put her hand on her face. “He wanted to get married right then. But, I told him no, he had to talk to my parents. We needed to do it right. Besides, I hardly knew him. There were a lot of shot-gun marriages those days. We all thought the end of the world was coming, and well, young lovers didn’t hold back.”

“So, you and dad became lovers?”

“You know the answer to that, don’t you? When I didn’t have my cycle, I knew I was pregnant. Your dad was elated and didn’t hesitate to talk to your grandparents. Of course, I was ashamed. But, I want you to understand something. You might have been the reason we married, but you were not the reason we stayed together for 70 years.”

“Did you love him, mom?” The question came out before I could filter it.

“I did, I just didn’t know I did. Your dad would tell anyone who would listen, ‘When I saw Lauretta on the wing of a B-24 bomber, I knew that she was the one for me.’ He’d say it all the time, ‘She’s the one for me!’” Mom giggled as she thought about this story. “Your dad always said it was love at first sight. But it wasn’t that way for me.”

“What do you mean by that, mom?”

“Well, love is a strange word, isn’t it? Your dad seemed to know from the first time he saw me that he wanted to marry me. I didn’t feel that way. I think my focus was romance or dreams. And, your dad wasn’t the wooing type.”

“I believe I fell in love with him after you were born. He thought you were the most beautiful baby in the whole world. In fact, I think he was happiest when he was holding you. He’d sing to you and rock you to sleep every night.”

She dropped her head, and tears rolled down her cheeks. My tears fell as well.

“He was a good man, a faithful man. Did I tell you his promise?”

I shook my head, and said, “no.”

“You know that he grew up hungry, right? During the Dust Bowl, his family barely survived. In fact, two of his sisters died. Well, your dad promised me that his children would never go hungry. He would make sure of it. And, he did. He worked two jobs most of our marriage, and you kids were never hungry.” She paused and looked into my eyes.

“Your dad kept his promises.”

Mom grew silent. Her face turned from animated to expressionless, and I did not know what to think. She whispered something that I had to ask her to repeat. She sighed and looked at me again.

“It just doesn’t seem real.”

 

 

 

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Gwen Plano

When I Was Your Age

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I have a hazy recollection of playing doctor with a boy when I was six. I think my mother caught us. Or maybe I made it up. I really don’t know. Most people can chronicle episodes from early childhood. I can’t. What I do remember is my first job. I was eleven. And I made .25 cents an hour. No I’m not THAT old! Well, maybe I am.

Every week my mother went to the hairdressers. My dad was a military man. We lived in Ottawa in a basement apartment and we were four kids. I think we were poor but we didn’t really know it. Either way every week my momma went to the beauty salon.

I remember her hairdresser so well mainly because she gave me my first job. I got to wash hair on Saturdays for .25 cents an hour. At the end of the day I would take the used towels, wash them out by hand and hang them outside on a clothesline. It’s not that washer/dryers didn’t exist… I’m sure they did. But we didn’t have one at the salon. Can you magine hanging and taking down frozen towels, in minus 10 degrees, in the brutal Ottawa winter?

Momma would tell me stories about her sisters who were born with their amazing Irish curly reddish hair. She was so jealous. So every couple of months she would get what was called a “permanent.” She would sit with chemicals in her hair and rollers that were supposed to make her hair curly for a month or two at a time. I don’t know if that even exists today. And then, weekly, her hairdresser who had the most beautiful Amber Rose blond pixie cut hair would put Momma’s straight/sometimes chemically induced curls,  in metal rollers, and sit her under a huge bubble hairdryer to set. I never ever saw my mother wash her own hair.

Over the years I went to the hairdressers only for a cut or colors–yes I’ve always been a fan of multi-colors. I’ll blame that on my passion for fashion. Beauty parlors were never my thing—until last year. I went from a spiky short cut that had been my trademark for twenty years and let my hair grow shoulder length. And now, going to see Miriam (aka MY hairdresser) every week has become my “thing.” And every time I go, I remember my mother. And my aunt who had those luxurious curls that my momma loved so much.

This morning I sent this photo to my sister.

Momma would have loved my curls.