Monday, May 08, 2006

Mom Story

This is why I'm grateful my mom doesn't do the computer thing...

So my mom and I were talking about welfare, citizenship, and temp. agencies the other day. Yes, all in one conversation.

Believe it or not, my mom came LEGALLY from Mexico back in 1950-something...Maybe 52, maybe 53...I forgot to ask. She won't tell me who helped her either, at least not yet. Soon I will track all this information down. For the book. The movie will be fantastic, can't you see it now?

Anyhow, my mom was indeed festooned with all the right paperwork to be in this country. At 70+ years old she's never been on welfare. Not once. What a statistic breaker that little lady is. She remembers there was only one time that she was tempted and got as far as the interview.

Picture it, Los Angeles 1972, my mom is 5 months pregnant, which makes it 34 years ago, almost exactly. My father had been in the midst of fixing all of his papers. He did NOT get to the US, um, "above board." I've already covered this before. So he and my mom were going to make it happen before their first child came into the world.

Step 1: Quit your job.

Yikes, this is the 70s and my father can't be employed? No way, Arnulfo. (That was his fake name.) So unemployed, with a pregnant wife to boot, onward with the paperwork.

Step 2: Get yourself a Mexican Visa

Ummm, that involved being IN Mexico to accomplish. So off to TJ with you. Yes, leave your 5 month pregnant wife whose sole income is from her waitressing job. Whose job is making her nauseous as the baby gets bigger and bigger.

Step 3: Lounge around at your uncle's house drunk off your ass...

Wha-wha-what??? So my mom is trying to keep her meals in her tummy, struggling to keep her job, filling out paperwork that she doesn't understand--schooling? A luxury she never got to sample. She goes down to TJ on her weekend to find out that nothing has been accomplished because a)drinking is more fun and b)drinking is more fun and besides c)drinking is more fun.

With no choice (no choice? I got some words about choices, but this isn't my story) but to go back to LA and work, my mom leaves my dad more money, as the first batch was spent, YES, on booze. This time, really, it's for the visa, promise.

Back in LA she can't stand the cafeteria anymore. She's by herself, preggos, and decides to quit, cuz she just can't stand having to go out back to toss her cookies. (This here is pregnant logic. The baby does not like the cafeteria, so quit it cuz well, that's more important than, oh food or rent. See, this is why I don't have children.)

Her friends tell her to go to the welfare office and she does. She qualified instantly as she was pregnant and there was only one income happening, but she didn't know that. They didn't even realize she was "expecting." They just thought she was fat so she only qualified because her man "done gone." So they said they would have to go and check to make sure there was no man or evidence there of.

My parents were still pretty much newlyweds and had little to their names, but that was enough to scare the bejeezubs out of my mom. NO inspection. She walked out of the office smiling and thanking the nice man, who then noticed the roundness of my mom's tummy and tried to call her back but she was too worried to hear him. Instead she ran to the nearest employment agency.

There they wanted to put her in yet another restaurant, she just could not do it. The food, the smell! Egads! So they asked her how she felt about potatoes. Raw potatoes? They placed her in a cafeteria that needed someone to peel them. Raw potatoes don't smell like much, that'd be fine, thank you.

That weekend she once again hoofed it down to ole' Mexico to find the last weeks' scene repeated. Oh the words I'd have had...but it'd be years before I was born. Anyhow, turns out no visas are issued in TJ, anyone coulda' told them that. You have to go all the way to Mexicali for them. So, um, did he? Nope. Right. Again, no choice in the matter, she poured my father into a taxi and off they went to Mexicali (here I must take a few deep breaths because my great uncle? A TAXI DRIVER. Did he bother to do any of the pouring (only of spirits my child) or the driving? NO, let the 4' 10" (with heels) preggos woman do it all by herself!).

Visa application was turned in and all the right papers signed, now you can go back to TJ and wait for it to be issued...hoo boy.

Back to the potatoes for my mom, back to the debauchery for my dad, but with even less money than the week before, maybe that'll slow him down? HA ha ha ha ha ha...sorry, couldn' help meself.

Potatoes like mountains all around her, but at least she wasn't puking.

Finally, the paperwork is done and visa is issued and my dad can get his "act" back to LA and get a job you lazy wino...I could use stronger language, but he is my dad, afterall. So my dad gets a job and that's when the Welfare folk get back to my mom. Turns out they'd tried and tried to get in touch with her but to no avail. The fellow who'd noticed her tummy had tried to tell her that she qualified as long as there was no income at all...Nothin' doin' thank you very much. My mom saw that if my dad had nothing to do, bad things happened, and she was happy peeling potatoes, again, thank you very much.

So my brother did not have to have Arnulfo as his name, as they were planning on naming him after his father and all. Though my brother LOVES LOVES LOVES french fries. Hmmm, I wonder why...

ETA: I have an appointment with an "employment service" on Wednesday...eep.


Bezzie said...

That's a great story!!! Seriously, you could flesh that out and write it up. I know I'd read it. But then again Allende, Cisneros, Chavez and Alvarez are my favorite authors.

The end about french fries killed me!

LeAnne said...

Mary, you are a hilarious writer! I was laughing (is that OK??!!) Great story.

Tactless Wonder said...

Laughing is good for the soul, of course it's okay!

Duchess said...

wow, what a fantastic story! you've got some strong blood in your veins. good luck!