After arriving in Homestead, Florida, Momma got a job as a teacher while Daddy performed his duties as a “nozzle jockey” for the air force. He refueled planes, which basically meant riding up and down tarmacs on fuel tanks that amounted to humongous bombs on wheels–not the way one would prefer to spend their early 20’s. Since Daddy was a good shot, having grown up with guns, he was eventually given the opportunity to be certified to train men in small arms instruction. This meant going BACK to Lackland in San Antonio.
Mom, of course, went with him this time. She told me they rented a tiny efficiency apartment, and she set to work scrubbing and cleaning trying to make it like home. The floor seemed a very difficult task as the more she cleaned the dirtier it got. She eventually realized she was scrubbing the vinyl off the backing. Much like her life of petty crime, that sojourn in San Antonio began and ended her life of housework.
While they were gone there was a hurricane that hit the lower Florida coast. Momma said she was worried to death about. . .her coat. She had visions of their little trailer floating off into the Atlantic Ocean with her lovely black wool, fur-collared coat inside. Why in the world she thought she NEEDED her woolen coat while living along the southern tip of Florida is beyond me, but she HAD bought it with her very own money–her first pay check as a teacher. And it DOES get cold in Florida occasionally. That’s why they have smudge pots, you know. To save the oranges. OR Momma could have just draped her coat over a tree or two.
Either way, they made it back to Homestead eventually to their little trailer (Momma’s coat was safe and sound) and while Daddy busied himself with small arms instruction and Momma busied herself as a kindergarten teacher, together they busied themselves with making a big sister for me. Momma was due at the end of December, and they both wanted to get my sister here in time to count on 1964’s income tax statement. To this end, Daddy did several things. First of all, he kept Momma in banana splits from the Dairy Queen in Florida City. There WAS a Dairy Queen in Homestead, but their banana splits just didn’t taste the same. So to Florida City they would go. Not ONLY did they get plenty of banana splits, but they also got a free baby carrier. Evidently a couple had left a pink baby carrier in a booth, so one day the owners of the Dairy Queen gave it to Momma and Daddy. I spent some time in it myself. I don’t know if my brother, Hal, did or not as it was pink. Luckily all the photographs of him in ANY baby carrier are in black and white, so only Momma knows the truth. 🙂
My mother ALSO loved (and still does love) chocolate covered cherries. Someone told her that since she was pregnant, if she ate too many, she would get fat. Poor Momma–she didn’t need to worry about getting fat, but she dutifully ate only ONE chocolate covered cherry per day. She did, however, eat a fair amount of home-made floured French fries. And banana splits. So I doubt if two chocolate covered cherries would have hurt her much. Along with the chocolate covered cherries and bananas and icecream and French fries, Daddy also tried to bring about my sister’s arrival by taking my mother for frequent spins through the Florida Everglades in an air boat.
Something must have worked, because exactly two years and ten days after their wedding, my sister, Suzanne, was born. I have written about her birthday before–she was a New Year’s Eve baby. And had ANOTHER baby not been born shortly after her, she would have been THE New Year’s Baby–which meant lots of diapers and other prizes. Alas, she had to settle for being the daughter of Harold and Glenda Watts–and my big sister. But she DID and DOES get fireworks every year for her birthday.
She was born in the military hospital on the base. Momma was alone when Sissy came as Daddy had to work, and Granny and PawPaw had not made it there yet. Daddy didn’t get to see Sissy until the next day. Momma had already told him he’d better not show up unless he had a dozen red roses. She’s a smart gal, my Momma. That may have been the last dozen roses she got from Daddy as I don’t remember ever seeing any in our house while I was growing up. Where is one to find a dozen red roses in a tiny military town on New Year’s day? Well–Daddy managed to find a florist who was closed but in their shop preparing for a wedding. Bless her heart, the florist listened to his story, then fixed him up a bunch of roses so Momma would let him into the hospital room.
To be continued. . .
Here I am in the Florida City Dairy Queen baby carrier. This photo HAD to have been taken on a Saturday night AFTER my Sister’s bath, or on a Sunday morning before the curlers were extracted for church. If I sniffed hard enough, I might be able to smell the Dippity-do. You can also see her perfectly cut bangs. Momma managed this by putting a piece of Scotch tape across our bangs so that she could cut a straight line even if we moved. I TOLD you she was a smart woman!