In a few minutes I am getting in the car to drive 35 miles to go see my Mom. I just went to Walgreens to get her a card. The place was full of flower bouquets and people buying cards. It has been so long since I lived in a regular upscale neighborhood I can't remember if people were just as crazy about buying things for their mothers as we are here in East End.
Today I want to write about my Mom. This is not an idealized treatise on her. She is not perfect, but boy did she help me become who I am.
In the picture above she was only 15, and had just finished high school. For a time after that she worked at the front desk at The Plaza Hotel in Laredo, TX. She met some fancy people there -- John Wayne and Betty Davis. She also met a Canadian baseball player who wanted to marry her. But she was committed to my Dad who was a soldier in the Pacific.
After my parents married in 1947, and moved to San Antonio, she worked as a PBX operator at Santa Rosa Hospital. Then they went to a small town near Houston named Rosenberg. There she helped my Dad start a funeral home business. Everyone in the family admits that she was the business brain behind my Dad. He had a great outgoing personality, but she really made things happen. When I was six she decided to get a Funeral Directors license, which was extremely unusual for women those days. She drove (by herself!!!) 30 miles from Rosenberg to downtown Houston every weekday for six months - and finished the program. That doesn't seem like much now, but in 1958 those kinds of things just didn't happen.
Maria de la Luz Hernandez, 1956
Even though her father offered to pay for her college (before or after marriage) she declined. She said she regretted it later. But she helped her brother go to graduate school.... and helped me all the way through - even when I was 43 getting a PhD - a single Mom with 2 kids.
One of the most important things she did for me was buy me a set of suitcases. When I was 11, she put the first one on lay-away. It was a small white one called "Tiara" by American Tourister. She bought two more over the next few years until I had a nice set. It sent a message to me - that I would be ready to go anywhere or do anything. I have passed the suitcase on to my daughter. Its an heirloom now.
She taught me:
1. About having good social skills, to be "educada" - to be able to talk to anyone, if they were important or not. To show respect, and to listen to people.
2. About being pretty yet competent. She always looked great - but was a really shrewd businesswoman.
3. Not to give all of myself (and my money) to a man. Always keep your own money she would say.
4. Not to put too many miles on my car.... remember that when it wears out you might have to get another one (I didn't listen to her until much later).
5. Get an education, no one can take it away from you.
6. Get an education so that if something happens in your life you can always support yourself. (in other words, if you are married, don't think that is enough)
7. Travel as much as you can. You can't always do it because you need 3 things, money, time, and health - and it is difficult to have all three.
8. You can get what you want so much easier with honey than with vinegar.
9. Shop carefully. Check out the expensive stores but buy at outlets.
10. When you are at party and there is lots of drinking, restrain yourself. Then you can watch everyone else get silly.
11. Have kids when you can, because sometimes you can't if you wait too long.
12. Learn Spanish - its the most practical foreign language to know (this was in the 60s when everyone was pressured to only speak English).
Maria de la Luz Hernandez, 2005
By the way, her nickname is "Chickie." She has the prettiest hair of anyone I've ever known.
She just came back from being in Argentina for 10 days for my son's wedding. Her doctor told her to learn the tango while she was there, but she didn't get a chance.