Dearel: Okay, mom. Coffee break over. Let's talk about what it was like in 1935, the year you married at the tender age of 13.
Mom: Well, first of all, now that you're a grown man I tell you things that I would never have told you when you were all children. As I look back on those years, I now think there was something broken inside your dad. There were places in his heart that no one could ever touch. Did the emotional damage come from his losing his mother at the tender age of 4? Or maybe it was Papa's poor parenting....a lack of discipline as he was growing up. Or maybe both. But your Dad was an inherently lazy and unambitious man. If he could escape hard work he'd find any way to do it. And your dad was a strange kind of bully...never around other men...he bullied his wife and he bullied his children. During the 22 years of marriage I was always a bit ashamed that the other menfolk knew Loda was a coward...and that he was lazy....and it hurt. But, I need not tell you....you saw it for yourself. I was loyal and loving and spent our entire marriage years, just waiting for your father to grow up. And, as hopeful as I was for that growing up, I was equally hopeful that my love could bridge that gap that always kept your dad a bit separate from everyone who loved him, hoping to receive love in kind.
Dearel: In 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, I suppose your life choices were pretty limited.
Mom: They were. But don't get me wrong. Once I had made my life choices I was bound and determined to live as well with them as I could. It was not always easy. Being poor was bad but it was not seeing any possibility of any rainbows over the near horizon that was equally hard. When I had Carl Leon, that first infant son, the hope revived, then died again with the sorrow of infant death.
Vergil came the next year, my first year in dual role of wife and mother. Then, when your dad went off and worked for the WPA, I had high hopes that the work and living around other men would mature him. It did not. And for several years both our marriage and my womb was barren..maybe from an inner fear that bringing children into our world was not a good idea. The year Marcie was born was the year of the "great New Mexico trek"....a few weeks of unemployment by your dad, and over employment for me and my two jobs.
So we came back to Oklahoma, tails tucked between our legs. But finally your dad got that job at Tinker Field, Raymond and your Dad and other men from Prague commuting into Oklahoma City to work for McDonnell Douglas. Then you came along. We had moved into town by that time and I was beginning to delight in playing "urban housewife". Johnny Mike came along a year and later and things seemed fine....except for Vergil's rebelliousness...the first sign that anger and resentment can pass from father to son.
Then your father came home one afternoon from work, announced that he was quitting his job at Tinker Field and we were moving to California...breaking or collective hearts in the process. Remembering New Mexico, I begged him not to take us out there. Oklahoma was the only home I'd known and family was there.
Dearel: This synchs with my earliest memories, Mom. We kids rode in the back of that pickup truck as well all followed old Route 66 to "the land of milk and honey".
Mom: And of course it wasn't "milk and honey". We first landed in Stratford, occupied a field worker's shack, and chopped cotton to pay for our first meals in California. As Vergil and I worked the fields your dad stayed back in the shack and whittled the day away. Later we would move down to Selma and work the peaches and grapes. And every day I missed home and family.
Dearel: Yes, I remember. We first occupied one of Katie Syperd's cabins, then moved to Jack Hupp's old apartments on West Front Street, then finally, when Dad got a job at Producers Cotton Oil Gin in Fresno we moved to that small house across from Jefferson School.
Mom: And if you remember that was the year that Papa died and your Granny left Oklahoma, joining us in Selma. And it was the next year when Mama and I opened Tommy's Cafe, our first opportunity to evolve from "housewife" to a dream far bigger.
Dearel: Why don't we stop here, Mom. You might need another Pall Mall break before going on.