Mom died 14 years ago this past April. Born in what is now the heart of the Sacramento Delta wine country, Clarksbourg, CA on August 8, 1939. I don’t know what Clarksburg was like at the end of the Great Depression or as World War II rolled in, but the wine grapes were in their infancy as Bogle led the way during my childhood. Clarksburg was surrounded by sugar beets, tomatoes, corn, and alfalfa as well as the great pear orchards of Courtland across the river.
Mom was the second of five children which included three sisters and their baby brother. I don’t remember stories from Mom’s childhood except that she loved to play volleyball and softball in what sounded like a church league at St. Joe’s and graduated from Clarksburg high school in 1957. A few years after Mom graduated Clarksburg High School would be renamed Delta High School. Mom’s childhood home was maybe 200 yards from my childhood home. I can barely remember it from my youth as it was torn down in the early 80’s to make room for a horse corral.
Mom’s life was difficult as she spent over thirty years with Dad and his textbook machismo, and later in life diagnosed with scleroderma. Mom had five boys and sadly buried one shortly after birth. I was the last, it was a difficult birth, and I arrived eight years after her last child. Mom hoped that I would be the daughter she had longed for, and was planning to name me Hope; as it turned out my name is David for my dad’s friend.
Being the youngest, I don’t know exactly when Mom was diagnosed with scleroderma or how bad her condition was. That was just like Mom to keep things to herself so that she wouldn’t be a burden. Mostly Mom suffered in silence. This is what made Mom so special; though she dealt silently with her own pain she bent over backwards for her children, especially me. I was told that Mom almost died during my birth, but I was lucky enough to have her for 31 years: sadly I didn’t appreciate her as I should have. The scleroderma was hard on Mom and I still remember the last meal we had together at the Olive Garden. She didn’t suddenly die after that meal but swallowing food became more difficult as her condition worsened. As an aside, as we were pulling up to the Olive Garden, Mom noticed the Hooters across the street and suggested maybe we go there. Luckily she settled for Olive Garden. Can we say awkward??
Fourteen years is a long time and I’m saddened to have taken Mom for granted. I can barely remember her voice but I’ll never forget her laugh. Mom thought she was funnier than she actually was but that’s what made her laugh wonderful. It was a dorky laugh, if you will, and a little high pitched but soulful. My oldest daughter has her laugh and Mom would have loved that.
Mom always wanted a daughter and the “Hope” she had for me paid off on July 4, 1998. Mom was right there when her first grandchild was born; a girl. I always thought it fitting that her last son, who she hoped would be a daughter, finally gave her the little girl she dreamed of. I can still see Mom’s joy as she held her granddaughter for the first time.
My oldest memories of Mom are oddly the ones that drove me crazy about Mom. After a long day at work, and also being a mom, Mom would fall asleep on the couch, head tilted back, and begin to snore while we watched TV. As a child I would feel offended and wake her up to tell her she was snoring or ask why she wasn’t watching TV. She never got upset with me for doing this and would simply reply with, “I’m just resting my eyes”. It’s only now that I know parenting is hard, she was tired, and it was love, not boredom that kept her there instead of going to bed. Mom is getting the last laugh now as I often fall asleep and start snoring on the couch while watching TV with my daughters. They’re not as “nice” as I was to Mom; they poke, prod, and try to balance things on my head, or put things in my ear while taking embarrassing pictures. Damn smartphones, but Mom always did have a great sense of humor and she is finally getting me back.
My favorite memory with Mom took place in May 2004. I don’t remember the exact date but it was the Tuesday or Wednesday following Mother’s Day. I was working as the mascot for the Stockton Ports, Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers at the time. Living in Sacramento, Mom had never seen me perform so I treated her to a day at the ballpark. Upon arriving at old Billy Hebert Field in Stockton she was whisked away to her VIP box seats behind home plate but a little down towards third base, right in front of the Ports’ on deck circle. I checked in on her before the game to make sure she had her hot dog, nachos, and drink, and asked if she liked her seats. She was content but Hebert Field was an old ballpark with hard seats, no shade, and it was a hot day. After checking on Mom, I suited up in the walk-in fridge beneath the third base bleachers, and then started up the ATV that I would make my entrance on. The voice of the Stockton Ports introduced me at 6:50pm, fifteen minutes before game time. I shot out onto the field just past third base, raced around the outfield warning track, and sped up coming down the first base foul line and coming to a stop just in front of the Ports on deck circle, and Mom. I jumped up on the seat of my ATV and waved to Mom and the crowd. The PA system started to play my intro music, “Just Because” by Jane’s Addiction, and on cue I jumped off the ATV doing the splits in mid-air before landing on my feet and going into my dance routine. My performance ended with a cartwheel and then running the line giving the Ports players high-5’s. While they threw gatorade and bubblegum at me. Mom watched it all while laughing and smiling. Mom was proud. Her “baby boy” was dressed as a smelly wharf rat, but she was proud. I stood shoulder to shoulder with the team during the National Anthem, and Mom was proud that I was doing what I loved.
Mom is gone, my memories are fading, but it’s funny how my love grows stronger. So whether you bred them, bought them or stole them, whether they have two legs, four legs, or no legs, Happy Mother’s Day.
For Mary Lucy Espinoza (nee Davalos)