The last ten years I have been making notes in my journal, or my husband has put out his digital recorder, when my parents visit us. Last year, my mom and I made “patitas” which is her signature stew for Christmas brunch to serve with tamales. This summer, I called her for a few clarifications and made it with my daughter who was teaching me to make tamales. I know, the daughter teaching the mother…another blog for that story.
My dad told us a story from our past, I had not heard before. He and Mom were moving from Corpus Christie to Norfolk, his new duty station. I was a toddler. It was the first time my Mom had ever left the area and my grandparents were having hard time. They were saying goodbye and Mom and Grandma Sotelo were so despondent, my Mom barely noticed my Grandfather Sotelo putting some money in the shirt pocket of her blouse.
They traveled cross-country to Norfolk via Roanoke, Virginia. I was surprised, because I never knew they had to go that route, through the mountains. It was here my Dad said he knew they were almost out of gas and they had no money. Dad was strategizing, but he had not spoken to Mom about it yet. He planned to leave Mom and I with the car, hitchhike to Norfolk, get an advance on his pay and hitchhike back. When he related this to me, I was so surprised. I know it was a different time, but how he must have agonized, having to leave his young wife and child and hitchhike his way to a Naval base. No money, no food and it wasn’t like it is now, with fast food and convenient stores. I cannot even imagine how far apart the stores and gas pumps were apart from one another in the hills of Virginia.
Mom, with the intuitiveness, that is present to this day, asked my Dad how the gas was. When he told her and then presented his worst case scenario, she remembered that her father had put some money in her pocket. When she took it out, it turned out to be fifty dollars. Fifty dollars is like having four hundred 2011 dollars!
When I think of how my grandparents lived in a little house with no indoor plumbing, a chicken coop, a shed where everyone took turns bathing, a garden and a pen where they raised pigs, I wonder what this money represented to him. I know my parents helped my grandparents when they needed help. It had to humble my parents that my grandfather had the foresight and the means to give his daughter, who was traveling far from them for the first time (the first of many such times), money to not just make this trip, but to help my parents get settled into their new life in a new state.