When we went back to California we had no option but to stay with my Grandmother; now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandmother dearly but she was an extremely difficult, unusual, critical, racist woman. I have never met anyone like her in my life!
It was bad from the start; she would ask my grown mother every morning if she had brushed her teeth?!? This infuriated my mom to no end and I don’t blame her.
My mom enrolled in CNA school, and even though I was not really sure what that was at the time, I was very proud of my mom for leaving an abusive relationship that was now spilling over to her children. Even though my Grandmother was crazy this was a much better gig than the one between my parents-at least for me.
I think my grandmother must have been working at the time because my mom had to delegate my sister and me out to babysitters and for some strange reason we were sent to different babysitters, I was never sure why. My first babysitter was a carefree, hippie type of woman. She had plum trees in her backyard and me and the other girl she also took care of would pick the plums and eat them until we had our fill! She also introduced us to a book by Marlo Thomas called, “Free To Be You And Me.” This was a wonderful woman who was starting to help me get self-confidence and was teaching me it was okay to be ME! At some point, the other little girl stopped coming, so it was just me and the babysitter; I adored her! She had a little VW Bug and we would tool around town to little shops and stores she knew about. Everything was great until my mom found out we were driving around town all the time. She did not want me being driven around in cars by anyone but her, so she refused to let me go back…she had NO IDEA how much worse it was going to get! Not long after I was taken from the “Plum Lady” she found a very nice latin babysitter who apparently came highly recommended. At first things were fine, but eventually, they started taking me ACROSS THE BORDER INTO MEXICO TO VISIT FAMILY! And she thought the Plum Lady was bad! I remember one time we went to Mexico to visit a dying relative. I was actually allowed to go into the room of the dying lady where she lay STARK NAKED in her bed, all of her relatives, male and female, coming and going from the room. I had no idea what that was all about!
With this babysitter, I was introduced to another thing that would become a passion in my life….poached eggs! She used to make one for me every day for breakfast and I love them to this day! Well, she made them for me every day until my mom found out about my across the border adventures!
My mom’s younger, half-sister was still living at home while we were staying there and she and my mother did not get along, for reasons I still do not understand. They actually got into a physical fight while we were there. I was learning physical violence everywhere I turned.
Not to mention the things I “learned” from my Grandmother! She lived on an extremely busy street with a strip mall across the street, there was a TG&Y there at that time. My grandmother lived directly across the street from the strip mall; she would look out her little kitchen window for hours and she knew EVERYTHING EVERYONE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WAS DOING BY LOOKING OUT THAT WINDOW! It was a hoot as she would regale me with the shenanigans and tomfoolery of the neighbors by looking out that window! Every time I looked out I only saw cars driving by-go figure!
My grandmother was also an extremely prejudice woman which shocked me as she was full blooded Portuguese and my 3 cousins were half Mexican…and this woman DID NOT CARE! She would call Mexicans “wet backs” right in front of her three half Mexican grandchildren, always talked about the Filipino’s, it was never ending and always shocking to me! She also did a lot of service at her Catholic church, but swore like a sailor, always taking the name of the Lord in vain. Now, this was YEARS before I became a Christian, but I knew it was wrong. I always wondered if she would go to church talking about the wetbacks and Filipinos?
And did she take the name of the Lord in vain at church? She also talked with her mouth LOADED with food…no matter how many times we would tell her it was rude and gross, she just didn’t understand or care.
I really do not recall how long we were with my grandmother, but I know my dad must have been contacting my mom, begging her back, because between the babysitter fiascos, fighting with her half-sister and being asked about brushing her teeth daily as a grown woman, at some point my mother decided going back to her tormentor was better than staying with my grandmother.
So one day we packed it up and headed to Jacksonville, Florida where my dad was currently stationed. We landed there on August 17, 1977. I know this for a fact because we landed in Florida the day after Elvis died, which was August 16, 1977.