Thursday, November 22, 2018

Turkey by Taxi

In many families, conversations revolve around lore and tradition origins during the holidays. A couple of years ago at a family reunion meeting, I learned the whole, or at least more of the a story about a Thanksgiving turkey first told to me by my mother. When she told me the story early on, she just said a headless fowl chased her around the yard in Smeltertown.
For years, I only knew that some headless fowl had chased my mom around the yard after being beheaded. All these years later, and I still didn't know if it was a turkey or chicken, or for what event it had been slaughtered. Now she and my father had both died, and the story held, incomplete until one Sunday when I met with my two uncles and many cousins at my cousin Gloria's house that sits near El Paso High School.
Towards the end of our organizing meeting for our first ever Gonzalez family reunion, our tio Roberto started explaining that one year there was a major labor strike against The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). Supposedly, it would last well into or even past November.
His brother Ricardo further explained that whenever my abuelo came home with 50 pound bags each of beans and rice, there was going to be a long strike. At those times, the family had meat only once a week. 
That year at end of the summer, the strike began. As the strike continued past Halloween, the family feared there would be no Thanksgiving dinner that year. No guajolote, no mole de guajolote, no big turkey drumsticks. Solomente frijoles y arroz y Kool-aid.
But cunningly just before the holiday, my abuela took the bus and went "to town," by herself. She was emboldened to solve the problem of the Thanksgiving dinner for her 12 children. Usually, she never left Esmelda. Instead, everyone came to Esmelda to see her. After she left for town, my mother and her siblings wondered what my abuela was up to doing. 
Later that afternoon, abuela pulled up in a taxi with ...a live turkey! Apparently, she  crossed the bridge  to Cd. Juárez for the fowl and rode back across the bridge to El Paso. Then, she rode back to La Esmelda in the taxi. We don’t know how she did it, but she came back home with the turnkey...in a taxi.
All that remained was to do the deed —chop the head off the fowl. And so abuelo did, but my mom had to hold the large bird as abuelo swung the ace. His aim was true, but the turkey was not yet willing to call it a day. He ran around the yard chasing my mother as she screamed aloud.  
In the end,  my abuela and tias made tortillas, frijoles, and rice, stuffing, mole, ice tea with limes, and turkey. Everyone enjoyed el cocono (guajolote) that year. Soon afterwards and before Christmas, the strike ended.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Lucille and the Royal


Royal manual typewriter
Sunday, November 4, was my mother-in-law Lucille’s birthday. She would have been 101. I say this because one of her proudest moments was how she lent a Royal like this to her neighbor. 

Mrs. V was in a bad marriage. Her husband ran around with other women and drank. Once, I was told, one of the women showed up in the middle of the night and threw rocks through all the windows in Mrs. V's house--evidently, her husband had called it off with the rock thrower. Fortunately, his abuse was never physical to her or her sons, and he held a job. Mrs. V felt she couldn’t leave him because of the mores of the day, and that she would receive no support for her sons and her. In short, she needed a job, but had no skills for a decent paying position. 

Having hauled the big black Royal typewriter halfway around the world and back, Lucille lent her friend the machine so that she could practice and get her typing speed up for a civil service position at Fort Bliss. I still hear Lucille telling us that there was some reason she held onto her father's typewriter. She concluded that this must have been the reason why.

So Lucille and Mrs. V worked together while the kids were in school. She taught her friend to know the ins and outs of typewritten communication. How to insert the paper, use carbon sheets, change ribbons, correct errors, and the like. She practiced, got her speed up, and took the civil service exam. She was hired. In fact, Mrs. V went on to have a great career, eventually becoming an administrator on post. And Lucille was left with knowing she helped a woman make a positive change for her and her family. To her dying day Mrs. V praised Lucille for the help and encouragement she gave.

Non nobis solum nati sumus.
   Not for ourselves alone are we born.
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Image sources: 

Turkey by Taxi

In many families , conversations revolve around lore and tradition origins during the holidays. A couple of years ago at a family reunion m...