My mother always bid me farewell after our 30 to 60 minutes of telephone conversation every Saturday with “Don’t forget to write.” After I married, we’d talk every Saturday morning about all the relatives, my siblings, her health, my father’s health. We’d write letters each week (well, missed some weeks) as well. She’d write on lined white paper purchased at the grocery store (preferred to fancy stationery I’d given her for her birthday) all the goings on in Maynard, Ohio. The garden (potatoes planted first, then onion, green beans and tomatoes; cantaloupe seeds and cucumbers) had started. The winter straw was pulled off the strawberries so we’d have them ready by June for shortcake pie, and jam.
She’d write about gossip among the neighbors, somebody always ‘having to’ get married. Catholics. After a year, the couple quietly divorced, straining the hearts of grandparents. Whose raising the kid? My mother would ask. Had they baptized the baby?
This communication routine wasn’t always so. There was a period of four years after I’d moved to California when I hadn’t communicated at all. My separation period. My growing into my own self when I could not bear to hear my parents’ recrimination about moving to California. It was the farthest away from them that I could move. I hadn’t yet understood the need for a passport. But California was fine, a year after the Summer of Love, the ocean, golden sunrises, silver sunsets. Clouds shrugged here and no one minded. I worked at lapidary, planning to be a street artist, sell my wares at markets, downtown San Francisco. This proved more work than I anticipated, so I took a temp secretary (we used this word then) job. I’d walk down Geary Boulevard from my Leavenworth studio in the tenderloin observing the characters and crazies on the street. A man lived one floor up over my room; he’d walk for hours at night in his shoes. Sleep was tenuous during this time. I can’t recall if I had a phone service installed in this gray place. This was before the World Wide Web was invented. It was easy to keep my family at bay at this time. I didn’t go home for four years, not at Christmas or any other season. I had so little money, barely making the rent and food. I changed jobs, moving to C&H Sugar Company corporate offices at One California. They recruited me to type numbers. I was very good at this my manager said. I should give consideration to becoming a statistical typist. I never did tell him I had a Master of Science degree in biological sciences.