Just Us Girls

In honor of Mother’s Day…

Mom&me

After the divorce, my mother and I lived with her father.  I was put in nursery school so she could take nursing classes.  She said that Pop-pop loved us, but he was so gruff that it was hard to tell. He didn’t mind baby-sitting me when she worked at the hospital, but he didn’t like it when she went out with men, or her girlfriends.  I remembered one especially scary fight.

Momma was holding me on one hip while Pop-pop shook his finger in her face.

“You keep it up, and I’ll have her taken away from you, Dorthy!” he threatened.

“Don’t you even think about it, Daddy!  I’m allowed to have some fun!”  She carried me into the bedroom we shared and then left, closing the door behind her.  The yelling continued, but later when I asked her about it, she said that there had been no fight:  “You just had a bad dream, baby.”

Because Pop-pop was so strict, she liked to get away.  Allen, one of her boyfriends, would drive us down to a restaurant at the beach.  He was a lawyer who always wore suits, and Momma liked getting fixed up in a pretty dress with high heels.  The restaurant was a dark Chinese den, eerie with fish tanks. They made Shirley Temple ‘highballs’ for me and always put a colorful little parasol on top. After dinner, a bit tipsy, Momma wanted to walk on the shore.  She’d drop her shoes in the sand and skip to the edge of the surf.  “Come in!  It’s fun!” she’d call to me.  But I hung back by the wooden steps, fearful that alligators swam in the dark water.  The waves lapping at her feet looked like hungry teeth and talons; they were just waiting to pull us under and feast on our polished pink toes.

In the summer, Momma got hired at a lodge up in the mountains.  During the day, while she worked, I was free to roam the nearby woods.  I’d been warned about rattlesnakes but actually hoped to see one, only I never did.  What did frighten me was when I heard a plane fly overhead.  I ran to the lodge and found my mom in the kitchen washing dishes.  “Momma!  The Germans are coming!  I heard their plane!”  I was stunned when she laughed at me.  “Honey, that was just my boyfriend Bobby.  He’s a pilot, and he was doing a fly-over so I’d come out and wave.”

I had two secret boyfriends of my own: Guy and Lucky, young men who worked at the lodge.  When their afternoon chores were finished, they’d take me out to the breakfast porch next to the bar.  Lucky put a quarter in the jukebox and picked three songs – he always made sure that one of them was my favorite, Elvis Presley singing “Teddy Bear.”  Guy would teach me how to jitterbug, swinging me easily from one side to the other, then reeling me in, breathless, from the back-step.

Some nights, Momma served drinks in the bar; others, she just liked to hang out with the customers.  She wore shorts and sleeveless blouses that knotted at her waist.  Her red lips left a stain on her glass, and sometimes she danced with one of the men.  Guy and Lucky were usually there, dressed in khaki slacks and white T-shirts with a pack of cigarettes tucked in the sleeve.  They’d tease me in between flirting with the women.  In the center of the bar was a massive brick fireplace to ward off the mountain chill.  When I got sleepy, I’d lie down on the warm bench that was built along its side.  Ice clinking in glasses, the deep voices of men, and my mom’s tinkling laughter lulled me into the safety of sleep.

“Want me to take her up to the cabin?” Lucky would ask her, and my mom would always say, “Oh yeah, Luck, thanks a lot.”  Otherwise, it would be her job, and the walk up a hill was a long way to carry a limp little girl.

One night, in my half-sleep, I heard a customer ask my mom, “You sure you wanna do that?”

“What?” she asked.

“You know … let a Mexican guy … take your little girl to bed?”

“Why … you … you just mind your own business,” Momma said.  When Lucky took me past her for my goodnight kiss, she was puffing on a cigarette, and I saw that her cheeks were flushed like when she got sick.

“Thanks so much, Luck,” she said, as usual.  Then Lucky carried me up the hill, tucked me in, and waited till I was all the way asleep before tiptoeing out, just like he always did.

When summer was over, Guy and Lucky enlisted in the Army.  The day they left, they hugged me goodbye, but I couldn’t stand to see them go.  I followed them past the property line, down in a meadow where I wasn’t supposed to be, waving like crazy.  I kept hoping that if I waved hard enough, they’d change their minds.  They turned to wave back but kept walking until I couldn’t see them on the road anymore.

My happiest times were when Momma borrowed her brother’s white convertible T-bird, and we explored the not-yet-so-mean streets of L.A.  She was the blonde, buxom vixen with Marilyn Monroe’s pouty lips, while I was more the sassy brunette Jane Russell sidekick.  With our matching mother/daughter sundresses, sunglasses and huaraches, we cruised around town on those white leather seats, waving to men in uniform and getting whistles from laborers and businessmen alike.

On those days at least, it didn’t matter that my daddy was gone, that Pop-pop could be mean, that Momma had a lot of boyfriends, or that Guy and Lucky had followed Elvis’ footsteps away from me.  As far as I was concerned, we were just two swinging girls out on the town, and life was good.

(A few scenes from this post appeared in Breast Milk and Burgers.)

 

83 thoughts on “Just Us Girls

  1. I found that this perfectly normal story with a good insight on friendship was made ugly by the racism reared its shameful head.

    Like

  2. Reading this blog entry really sets things into perspective, as far was past and to the modern ways of thinking. How you wrote of Pop-pop would get upset for his daughter, a women going out with men. and how when your mother was told by a bar goer that why should a white women if i guessed would let a Mexican man take her daughter to bed. that already set sexism from pop-pop and racism from that bar goer. so we see that time have changed, and will keep on changing with the change of peoples thought of of the times.

    Like

  3. I found this article very comforting and relatable in a way, I say this because the way you describe your mother as a strong and a women that took all of these opportunities in life I can also see my mothers visual while I read your article. As from the reading I can tell that she was very interactive and outgoing same as my mom but always made the sacrifice to make sure I was good.

    Like

  4. Interesting, this post gave made me realize how different each relationship can be for a kid with their parents. Not everything is always happy-go-lucky and there are some realities that are faced, even at a young age, be it racism or anything else. Mom’s always want and wish the best for their kids, no matter what they say or do.

    Like

  5. You describe your mother as a strong woman, and although she gave you freedom to roam the woods for example, (I do not know too many mothers who would), it seems to me that she reflected her bravery onto you. Great story, thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Like

    • I don’t know if my mom was brave, or it was just the times. We didn’t know anything about pedophiles, etc., and it was normal for children to be out and about. I think she was more likely young and foolish! 🙂 I did develop certain types of bravery, though. It was not easy for her to be a single working mom.

      Like

    • My mom is gone, and there were many angry years in my teens and 20’s (my mom had bipolar disorder). Fortunately, we became friends later and still had some good memories. Yes, cherish those moments!

      Like

  6. Thank you for this insight for mother’s and this post about your mother on mother’s day. Makes want to cherish these moments with my mom more.

    Like

  7. This reminds me a lot of my mother, her parents didn’t have the best relationship but when it was just her and her mom, they are the best memories for her to reminisce about.

    Like

  8. I love this story about your mother. The times that spend with mom are always good. This story reminds me of my mother, who I spent the most time with in my childhold. My dad only came home three times a week when I was liitle, so I have a really close relationship with my mom. She is my best friend. I will cherish every monment with my mom because of your story.

    Like

  9. I’m really touched by your words. I like the memories of your mother that you have. I don’t really have an “intimate” relationship with my mom because I am a boy, But she always does everything for me. I think I should tell her how much I love her after reading your story!

    Like

  10. My mother and I have a good relationship as well. I don’t have a lot of “fun” memories of my mom because she became handicapped when I was in the fourth grade. She kind of took care of herself until now she can barely even take a shower without some form of help. She still manages to work, but she is considering retirement, and I told her I would help her with her jewelry blog she has been thinking about.

    Like

    • So you ‘lost’ aspects of your mom at a pretty young age. I lost more at an older age due to my mom’s bipolar disorder. I think it’s sweet that you will help her with a blog she wants to do. ❤

      Like

  11. Brought back memories, thank you for sharing. The best mom is a happy one, and if you meet someone who can contribute to your life and bring joy for a moment, then so be it. I as well was a single mommy at 18 and my dad disliked me going out. His mentality was, you screwed up, now you have to dedicate yourself to your kid.. As a young parent we make decisions that aren’t always the best….now I understand! Just like your mom, we always had our kids’ best interest. Thanks again for sharing this lovely note.

    Like

    • Dedicating yourself to your child does not have to mean that you have no life as an adult. Not saying what did or didn’t happen, but how is a single mom to possibly meet someone else if she never goes out? You’re welcome!

      Like

  12. It’s unfortunate how people judge others or like to stereotype. I liked how your mom responded back to that unnecessary comment. This reminds me of how defensive my mom can be sometimes too, especially when it comes to her children. Oh how I love moms!

    Like

  13. Wow! This really gave me such a vivid image of that specific time frame. I experienced the same situation with my parents as well, so I definitely can see how confusing and hard it must have been. I’m glad you had seen the brighter side of the picture rather than focusing so much on the bad memories, life should be viewed from a positive aspect rather than a negative one.

    Like

  14. Pingback: A Day Late and a Dollar Short – Just Like My Dads | Lynda Smith Hoggan

  15. I am sorry to hear the struggles you went through as a child. I could only imagine what you went through. After reading this article, it makes me realize how fortunate I am that my parents stayed together. Often, they would have their arguments and it would always make me scared that things would turn south. It made me really scared in high school. I feel like I can relate to your mother that I want to go out and have fun at my current age which is 23. My parents used to be very restricting on when and where I go out and especially who I am hanging out with. I hated that throughout high school, so once I got to college, I had my own freedom and my parents and I gradually stopped talking. I got fed up with their overbearing strict rules and I think they realized it, so now they allow me to do almost anything I want as long as it is reasonable.

    Like

    • I’m glad you and your parents finally reached an understanding! My mom was over-controlling until after I was out of college, and it really caused problems in our relationship. But once she gave up control, we could become friends.

      Like

  16. Thanks for sharing such sweet memories of your childhood with your mother. My mother passed away when I was young so, often times the memories become blurry. I glee with joy however, on days that I recall or find things that remind me of how sweet and loving she was. Mother’s are so precious and I am glad you are able to document the memories.

    Like

  17. Great Mother’s Day Post! For single mother, people don’t understand how hard they work and put their children first. People forget that their human too and deserve to have fun besides working so hard. Amazing! I love how at the end you stated, “it didn’t matter that my daddy was gone…” It’s amazing when a mother is strong enough to take on multiple roles.

    Like

  18. Thank you for sharing your story! I find it comforting to know that you both were able to share many memories together despite challenges in your home environment. I am glad that you had each other to rely on and were able to maintain strength throughout it all. She lives on through you, so go have some fun! 🙂 Happy Summer!

    Like

    • I love sharing these little memoir stories. Oh and by the way, back to Culturama, this year I met a publisher who wants to publish a chapbook of these for me! So you never know what may happen! Happy Summer to you, too.

      Like

  19. This is really similiar to our family situation right now my father,however, is still there for us but he is working out of the country away from us so we barely get a chance to see him

    Like

  20. This story is a classic example of cherishing the beautiful moments with loved despite of everything else going on. I don’t have the perfect family and I doubt anybody does, but making memories that bring you joy make you really appreciate your loved ones.

    Like

  21. I don’t have the closest relationship with my mom ; however it’s always cool to see a perspective different. I’m mixed; my mom is asian, I came out black. We did face so racist remarks every now and then. Your mom’s response to that comment reminded me of times similar to that when I was young

    Like

  22. Wow, this was a great representation of how important it is to share memories. It is truly great to see the type of friendship that was displayed, my favorite part is the part when the two were cruising in the T-Bird together and sharing the memory of being apart of that lifestyle.

    Like

  23. The way your Mom handled that racist comment reminded me of how I wished my mom would handle comments like that, but towards me

    Like

  24. This is a really great mother’s day post. Things are so much different compared to now especially with racism and freedom. Everyone has made mistakes in the past, but with love we tend to look past their mistakes and love them for what they mean to us because we never know when it will be the last time. I’ve learned that the hard way. I’m sorry that you’ve lost your mother.

    Like

  25. I thought that this story was very endearing, especially because I loved your mom’s energy of being a woman who didn’t care about the opinions of others and wanted to live her life the way she wanted with you right by her side.

    Like

  26. Pop Pop was my great great grandfather’s name. It must be something about that time where father’s protected their daughters. Becoming a mother at a young age and having to conform back to “father’s rules” is one of the hardest things to do. I was a mother at 17 1/2 and living with my father. Like your mother, I wanted to live, and after moving back with him was very hard to do. I saw my father with a lot of women, but I couldn’t tell him of my actions. I love all of your stories! I promise to read all of your books 🙂

    Like

  27. Hi Professor Hoggan,

    I love this story about your mother. Thank you for sharing. The times with moms are always good. I am so impressed by your story. I have come to a conclusion, “no one has perfect life, but you can create as happiness and find joy from the “imperfection”. I could kind of see why you are interested in studying human sexuality and became a professor of this subject.

    Like

  28. Hello Professor Hogan, like you growing up in the story I only have my mother left. This will make me appreciate her much more, thank you.

    Like

  29. Your life story sounds so pretty, I can just imagine all the fun that you had and it sounds as if no matter what obstacle life threw at your mom and you still lived a thing called life. Your childhood must of been filled with more happiness then bad times. As I keep reading your blogs the more admiration I get for you…Thank you for sharing…..I enjoyed reading….

    Like

    • My childhood had plenty of bad. For example, my mom used to beat me, and it turned out later that she had a mental illness. But I can still enjoy those happy memories we had. Thank you for reading and sharing your impressions.

      Like

  30. Seems like you had a lot of good memories with your mom. I came from a strict home were growing up i was unable to be sitting in the same room as a boy. I am happy your mom trusted you and let you have fun. It might because I am young but when you said Guy and Lucky followed Elvis footsteps and left you, do you mean they passed away as well? Or what happened to them?

    Like

  31. Reading this post reminded me of why I love Mothers’ Day so much. I love having especially grand reasons to show my mother how much I love and appreciate her. Although I do not have summer memories at the lodge or anything of the sort with her, I have always been a momma’s boy and have many fond memories. The recent pandemic has essentially forced us to spend more time together, and I am not complaining in the slightest; we have done everything under the sun including baking cakes, cooking dinner, and teaming up for some weekend warrior gardening. I have the utmost confidence that this woman will always support me and be on my side. Reading your post is another reminder that I need to take any opportunity possible to express my gratitude to her for being such an exceptional parent and immaculate role model.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Like

    • And thank you for sharing! It’s wonderful that you have such a close relationship with your mom. It doesn’t require a lodge or anything fancy. Just baking or gardening together is a memory you’ll always cherish.

      Like

Leave a Reply to Shannon Ruiz Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s