Wednesday, March 8, 2017


A recent family gathering at Casa de Rodriguez
(Mom in white turtleneck behind Dad)

The story of my mother, Jennie Ryan, is surrounded by family.  She is the fifth out of seven children, born to Ignacio and Juana Gonzalez, my Grandpa and Grandma.  She grew up on a farm and some of her earliest memories involve feeding lambs from a baby bottle with her twin sisters, Emily and Molly.

What I don't know about my mother, what she never talks about, is what it was like learning English in the immersion of school, speaking a foreign language under the pressure of learning how to read and write.  I don't really know how they made it through the winters when my grandfather, a farm worker, was not working so much.  I don't know how it  was for her to grow up in a small town that was predominantly white during a time when racism was not called racism --it was just the way things were.

The reason I don't know much about these things is that my Mom doesn't like to "dwell on negative things"--even when it pertains to her own personal history.  What she loves to tell us is stories of being our small town's Tomato Queen, riding like a princess on an elephant through the main streets. Stories of meeting our father, Jack, who blew into Tracy like her knight on a white horse, swept her off her feet and married her in the Catholic Church that we were all baptized in.

Mom dwells on beauty.  She loves finding the good, is optimistic to a fault, and believes in counting her blessings.  Her life has not been easy, but you would never know this by talking to her.

Four Generations Scarlett

The power of my Mother is the strong belief in goodness.  She believes in the power of love, the power of forgiveness, the purpose in living a life for God, and the underlying truth that the only thing we can control about life is the way we react to it.

Today my mother turns 80.

I just typed that--and I can't believe it.  I think of my mother as perpetually 45, sweeping the floor, curling her hair, listening to classical music, making breakfast, watering her garden, going to Mass, lighting the candles on the table, reading the latest Michener.  All of these memories kind of blend together to create one large memory of her being there for me, woven into my life in ways that are completely beautiful.

Because, at her very core, my Mom is beautiful.

Auntie Molly, Auntie Emmy, Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom!  You make 80 look like 45 -- which I know can't be right, because I'm 53, right?  Or am I fifty four?  What am I, Mom?  Tell me!

Happy Birthday!

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