A Life Unscripted

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For a short period of my life, I lived in a survival mode, never knowing if each day would be my last.  It was during this time that I was inspired to write my memoir.

This story is an expression of how life really is unscripted for all of us; it is not about degrading anyone’s dignity or humiliating the living. I’ve tried to portray a vivid account of my life from being a naïve young girl, who at nineteen became a young wife and woman, to a planned suicide.

The flashbacks incorporated in the story are a means of bringing to life several unforgettable traumas experienced with incest and rape, and how perseverance through faith and courage, I overcame many of life’s crises.

brother-and-sisterFor eighteen years, I taught Religion Education classes, and had been an instructor of various other classes in the Catholic Church. It was the teachings from the classes that sustained me through life’s circumstances. I was a mother of five grown children when I divorced after twenty-nine years of marriage from a man whom I had truly loved. After many incidents of arguing, breaking up, and getting back together, I broke the Yo-Yo Syndrome.

Through the years, I’ve worn many hats: Joe’s wife, the kids’ mother, and the religion class teacher. But, the hat that fits best is a moniker, Woman of Faith. Religion became a focal point of my life at an early age, and I lived reverently by the only means I knew how—faith.

The incidents in my life’s story, both humorous and sad, also include disastrous kitchen events, family vacations, and innocent blunders, which add a touch of reality to everyday living.  The incidents are as close to actuality as I recall them.  If anyone remembers them differently, then that is their perception.

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Chapter 1
The week I was born, President Truman was nominated for another term and The Babe Ruth Story premiered. I was born July 29, 1948, in a cold delivery room in Breckenridge Hospital of Austin, Texas. I arrived one month premature, and weighed less than five pounds, including my massive head of dark brown hair. I lived my first few days on earth in an incubator until I tipped the scales on the other side of five pounds.

My parents, Ben and Hilda Sosa, were beside themselves, and showered me with immense affection from the minute I first wiggled my toes. Their affection was gratitude in disguise because, after five births in eight years, they now had a baby girl. My brothers before me were Ben (Junior), Albert, Arthur, and Eugene.

The families of my father and mother had known each other from years of picking cotton, as migrant laborers, in the fields northeast of Austin. My father was nineteen years old when he married my mother, who was then sixteen. By the time I entered the world, as a baby boomer, Dad had become a gifted bricklayer who worked hard from dawn to dusk when there was work. When inclement weather did not permit him to work outside, he utilized his time with indoor repairs.

We lived in a small wooden three-bedroom house with a fenced-in backyard where a couple of collies joyfully played. My mother was a talented housewife who took care of the children and the house with the energy of the Energizer Bunny. She was a mother of her times, and was resourceful in the many ways she made the dollar stretch. She made her own soaps, and sewed our clothes. The craftworks she created from seashells, she sold around the neighborhood.

During the year of 1948 Gandhi was assassinated, the states of Israel and West Germany were founded, apartheid was established in South Africa, the Scrabble game was offered publicly, and the first Polaroid camera was sold. President Truman was reelected toward the end of the year.

Nineteen months after my birth, Tommy was born. As he grew older, we became inseparable, and, with Eugene, we formed a threesome. I grew up a tomboy and did what they did. The taller the cottonwood tree, the higher I climbed. Playing Cowboys and Indians was how I spent most of my days.

I was often a showoff. I swung upside-down from the branches of mesquite trees, and dared my brothers to do the same.

“Look at me,” I shouted to Tommy and Eugene, who were throwing rocks at tin cans. “Bet you can’t do it!”

“You’re gonna get hurt,” Eugene cautioned.

“I can do that with one leg,” Tommy said, taking the dare. In no time at all, he was up the tree with Eugene behind him.

Tommy climbed a limb higher and was swinging from one leg when Eugene asked, “Are you afraid to do that? Can you swing with one leg?”

“Nah, it looks boring,” I said as I sat up and jumped off the tree—right into an upright mesquite thorn. The thorn went straight through my skin between the two large toes of my right foot. It hurt like the dickens, but I wasn’t going to show it.

The boys had seen what had happened and started laughing at me. With tears in my eyes, I said, “It was a trick. I bet you can’t do it.” I ran crying inside the house to Albert, who pulled out the thorn.

Albert was my protector. If I got scraped, I went to him for medication. If I got my feelings hurt by anyone’s unkind words, it was he who comforted me. But, he had another side to him that sent chills up my spine. He enjoyed telling me ghost stories. The stories terrified me to no end. It was a catch-22. He’d tell me a scary story, and, as I got wide-eyed afraid, he would change the mood by assuring me there was nothing in the house to be afraid of.

Instead of playing marbles on my hands and knees with the boys, I should have been in the kitchen learning to cook. “Mary, I need you to boil a few eggs for a potato salad,” my mother said.

“Okay. How do I do that?”

“Just put the eggs in water, and turn on the heat.”

“That sounds easy,” I thought as I crackled several eggs and poured them into the water in the saucepan. The eggs spread out rather quickly over the surface of the water and boiled that way. When I thought they had boiled enough, outside I went, again.

My parents condoned “spare the rod and spoil the child” theory, but were not necessarily unified in their discipline. I received many spankings from my mother; Dad never touched me. My rear end’s baby-smooth skin had figuratively turned to leather from a thin leather strap. Many of the spankings were due to my own mischievous behavior, and some were adopted on behalf of Eugene. In recompense, he gave me his desserts. I definitely got the shorter end of the stick.

Both of my parents were hard-working people focused on the upbringing of their family. Neither one had a high school education, but that did not prevent them from relying on their God-given talents to make a living. Daddy built a larger house on two acres, and together they planted a vegetable garden and raised chickens.

Mysteries of my father and mother existed. Secrets were abundant in our household. There was a clear distinction between adults and children. If the grown-ups gathered for coffee around the kitchen table and their conversations took a different tone of voice, I was asked to go outside and play.

Dad had a drinking problem, which he refused to admit, and it seemed to me that my brothers were taking mental notes. I witnessed many episodes of abuse and irritability with my father when he was under the influence of alcohol. Mom was an enabler who endured his abuse. Comprehension of their dilemmas was beyond my reach. How can you love someone who says one thing and means another? Their actions were also confusing by saying one thing; they would say one thing while doing the opposite.

Some people inherit money, jewels, and maybe cars. Dad inherited the love of cockfights from his father. He built a conditioning house in his extended backyard and spent many evenings there. I watched how he put little boxing gloves, designed especially for roosters, on their claws. It was interesting how he lifted the roosters one by one above his head and then gradually brought them down as they spread their wings out.

I witnessed how he sparred them one against the other while wearing their little boxing gloves in preparation of the real thing. Rooster fights were generally within a 100-mile radius from Austin. Popular Derbies were held in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Because the sport was illegal, I was not allowed to talk about the rooster fights.

At an early age, I sensed I was different, not only because I was a girl among five brothers. But because of the things that happened to me, and not to the others. When the three-day measles invaded our household, I came down with German measles. When Eugene and Tommy were ill with the mumps, Mom had me lie between them and drink from the same glass they used so that I would catch it. It didn’t work. The mumps escaped me.

Daddy enjoyed tickling me. He often threw me in the air to catch me, and then swung me around, which made me dizzy. Eventually, that came to a stop on account of my fainting spells. After one incident, I did not quickly recover and was rushed to Breckenridge Hospital, where I was diagnosed as anemic, and given iron vitamins.

As a young girl, I picked little pieces of black rock from the pebbles in the driveway and ate them. My mother was referred to a doctor who told her that the little pieces of rocks I was eating had iron, of which my body needed more. The iron dosage was subsequently increased.

Cleaning the corner altar, one “do a good deed” afternoon, I tried to move the lit votive candle out of the way. I had trouble reaching the altar, which was an arm’s length higher than me, and accidentally knocked the candle over. The wax poured into my eyes, nostrils, and mouth—my entire face. I prepared a scream, but the wax covered my mouth and muffled my sounds. “What am I screaming about?” I asked aloud. The wax felt like ice on my skin, and, in disbelief, I peeled off the cold wax and wondered why I didn’t get burned.

I wanted to know more about religion and pushed my parents into getting involved with the church. They made sure that Eugene, Tommy, and I received our First Communion rites in the Catholic Church. It was during the time when the mass was celebrated in Latin, women wore veils on their heads, and the women sat on the right side of the aisle and men on the left upon entering the church.

An emotional lesson I learned was that bad things did happen to good people. As I grew older, I experienced unpleasant and despicable acts against me. Before my thirteenth birthday, I had experienced the humiliating act of incest and the degradation of rape.

Growing into my teens I had disciplined myself to remain silent, which resulted in me becoming a shy and passive individual. But life went on, and, through it all, my faith sustained me. The nuns at the church were a great comfort to me and taught me different ways of contemplation.

I was the only sibling in my family to graduate high school. By the time I was eighteen years old, Junior and Albert were married with families of their own. Albert was enlisted in the Army and serving duty somewhere overseas. Eugene was a single man, dating as he pleased. Tommy had married at an early age. Arthur was incarcerated at Huntsville, Texas. And I, I was desperately trying to be me—whomever that was.

Chapter 2
Growing up among five brothers definitely had its disadvantages.  Protectiveness was misconstrued as special privileges and having a bedroom to myself was viewed as spoiled. 

I had the utmost respect for my mother, who was as loving as she was over protective during my formative years.  I was never far from her watchful eyes.  If she was controlling in any way, I suppose it came with being sheltered.  To talk back or voice strong differences of opinion was an act of sheer disrespect; an act I avoided to all extremes because of its consequences. 

a-life-unscripted-by-mary-inez-ramirezI accept now that it was out of this love for me that she did what she felt compelled to do before my intended wedding day.  She and my father were concerned about me getting pregnant during the honeymoon.  My father agreed with my mother that I should use “precaution.”  Therefore, against the teachings of the Catholic Church, my mother advised me to take birth control pills and scheduled an appointment for me with the family physician to have a physical examination a couple of months before the big day.

Joe Ramirez was the man for me.  I met him two years earlier when I worked as a candy girl and he as the doorman at the State Theater in downtown Austin.  He had eyes that expressed more in one glance than if he spoke a thousand words.  He was a kind and mild human being and I became undoubtedly attracted to his gentleness.

Joe joined the Army and did his basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana.  I wrote almost daily and with each new day I anticipated the postman’s arrival hoping for a letter from Joe.  It was wonderful to see ‘I love you,’ written in his handwriting.  Our letters, steamy and clearly passionate, revealed the love and respect we had for each other.

After a year and half romance, Joe proposed on April Fools’ Day, 1967.  I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and we planned to have a large family.  We shared with each other a special closeness, which love inspires. 

I was naïve and sexually inexperienced.  In many ways, we both were.  I knew very little about my own body and much less about his or his needs and my mother knew that about me.  She drove me to the Dr. Nelson Schiller’s office without saying a word as to what the doctor was going to talk with me about.

After the examination, I walked into the doctor’s office expecting instructions on the use of birth control pills.  How I wished my mother had spoken more to me about the usage of the pills, but she considered the pills modern medicine and did not know enough about them to advise me; hence, the doctor’s visit.

“Come in,” he invited, “Please sit down, Mary.  I want to talk with you for just a few minutes,” he said as he looked up from the paperwork he held in his hands.  He smiled at me as he removed his black-rimmed glasses from his face and said, “I understand you are to be married in a couple of months.”  He raised his eyebrows and smiled.

I gave a shy smile and answered, “Yes.”  I put my trembling hands on my lap where he could not see them.

He tried to ease me.  He continued with, “You are in good health and all has checked out fine.  You’re in good physical condition, perhaps a little underweight.”  That’s putting it mildly, the little voice in my head said, since I weighed 93 pounds.

“Married life will take care of that,” he smiled.

I sat there wide-eyed, nervous and unsure of what was to happen in the process of the examination.

“Your future husband is going to want to touch you and your body and in various places.”  He tried to prepare me but his words confused me.

In his professional voice, he continued, “Your husband will want to caress your breasts and kiss them.”  My eyes became even wider and my jaw dropped.  In a tone accustomed to him, he stressed, “LET him learn your body.  RELAX and ENJOY it.”

Learn my body!  What did he mean by that?  I sat there shocked and nervous.  I did not hear another sound except for the beat of my heart.  I saw his lips move but I did not hear a thing.  Have I gone deaf?  He smiled with a look of concern and asked if I had any questions.  Have I gone mute?  Like a zombie, I just sat there unable to utter a single sound, much less comment on anything.  My heart pounded so loudly I barely heard what the doctor said to me.  I tried to comprehend what his words meant and how they applied to my impending wedding night but I honestly did not know.  I stared straight at him but saw nothing.  “He will want to touch your private parts,” he added with a look searching for reaction from the blank expression on my face.  What was I getting into?  I wondered.

The physical part of the examination went well and my vital statistics checked out fine.  I was administered the necessary shots as required by certain countries for entrance to their country.  Joe and I planned to honeymoon in Mexico and then, of course, I would join him at his assigned base in Germany and eventually, travel throughout the European.

An uncomfortable feeling swept over me at the personal things the doctor talked about.  I left there upset at my mother who had not truthfully prepared me for what she had asked the doctor to tell me.  I suppose she could not talk with me about s-e-x, which was a word not mentioned in our household.  She failed to mention those intimate things that meant so much.  At that time, I was upset at the world that I had to endure such a low-down conversation.  Later I realized how fortunate I was that my mother cared enough to ensure I received clinical advice from someone we both knew.  From previous doctor visits we had put much trust in Dr. Schiller’s advice.  It was no time to doubt him now.

From the doctor’s office, Mom took me to get my passport.  Excitement replaced embarrassment.  At nineteen years old, did I really comprehend what commitment meant?  I thought I did.  Marriage is forever!  I viewed it reverently as a God-given joy.  I secretly vowed to work at my marriage.  I wanted fulfillment in all aspects of the marriage and vowed to work hard at it.  I knew Joe and I would prevail over an assortment of bridges to cross.

Marriage is one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church and in the beginning, we faced the reality of two major differences: religion and alcoholic beverages.

Joe was baptized Catholic, but raised in the Southern Baptist faith.  I was a Roman Catholic since birth.  There were documents to sign regarding the children from our union.  Joe readily signed the Catholic Church’s required papers and agreed that our future children would be baptized and raised in the Catholic faith.

Both sides of my family drank and to the extreme, his did not – at least not on the maternal side.  His mother’s family, were from a long line of Protestants, who it seemed to me, believed that only members of their faith would get to see the Pearly Gates of Heaven.  His mother did not want alcoholic beverages of any type served at our wedding reception.  Joe told me that as Southern Baptists they were teetotalers who considered liquor evil.  Ignorant of the Baptist faith, and wanting to please my finance’s family, I sheepishly apologized for suggesting we have alcohol at our wedding reception. 

I had seen how alcohol rendered a person’s judgment.  In my young years, I witnessed the influence of alcoholism and its power to lead individuals down a hallway of despair.  I knew how abusive drunkenness could cripple one’s honor and dignity.  Alcoholism is an equal opportunity destroyer it does not discriminate according to race or creed.  It is a destroyer of love and family unity.  The smell of beer and liquor reminded me of sad times.  So many times, I witnessed the consequences of over-indulgence.

That Friday morning’s shower left the streets slippery and wet.  The overcast sky hung like a heavy haze, which covered the town but made for a cool afternoon.  Mother and I waited for my father to take us to the grocery store.  He was to get money for grocery shopping.  He left that morning to pick up his check for masonry work he had done earlier in the week.

The hours passed without a word from him.  Where is he?  I impatiently wondered.  Mother and I were in the living room.  She sat in her chair by the window in hopes of seeing his truck driving up the lane.  From where she sat, she could literally see for miles.  I lay on the gray linoleum floor, Readers or Writers" rel="nofollow" target="_self" >reading a book.

The phone startled us.  Mother hesitated, “Hello.” 

“Was it my father?” I thought.  

“Hilda.”

My mother had a puzzled look on her face.  She expected to hear the familiar background sounds of a beer joint, filled with other disillusioned people who hoped to resolve their problems through the bottle in their hands.

“Yes.”  Her heart skipped a beat as she held her breath and listened. 

“The truck is stuck in the mud.  In the river!  Come get me.”  He gave her his location. 

Once she assumed he was all right, her emotions changed from worry to anger.

I heard my mother sigh and in the distraught state she was in, I heard her reply, “Okay.  I’ll be there.”  She hung up.  I said nothing. 

Silence followed until I heard my mother cry.  I did nothing. 

“Come on, Mary, you‘re going with me,” she called out to me.  “We have to go get your father.”  When she used “your father,” I knew he was in trouble.

Mom drove the green and white Ford station wagon to the location Dad gave her.  There on the banks of the Colorado River, off the Montopolis Bridge, I saw the black truck.  The front tires were stuck in the mud.  Because of that morning’s rain the tires had no traction, and the truck simply slipped down into the river until a boulder on the banks stopped its slippery decline.  Thank goodness, the truck had not gone in much further

When we got to Dad, another man, who had been fishing not far from the incident, was with him and rendered aid.  After several attempts, they managed to push the truck out of the water.

Yep, dad had been drinking.  Again!  The alcoholic state he had been in had blurred his vision, which caused him to misjudge the entrance to the bridge.  By mishap, he accidentally drove the truck into the muddy banks of the Colorado River. 

Drunk-related incidents left a negative impression upon me.  How many times had my mother rescued my father?  How often can a young girl cry for the mishaps of her father?  I wondered if he would ever stop. 

My side of the family wanted the traditional Mexican wedding with food, music, drinks and all the trimmings.  His side was satisfied with just the food.  A compromise was reached, no alcoholic beverages would be served and both families had to agree on the food and music.

Our day finally arrived.  I was one month into my 19th year and he was one month shy of twenty-one.  It was the 27th day of August, 1967.  The ground, damp from the morning rain, smelled of wet earth.  I welcomed the rain.  It helped to cool the hot and muggy August day and rain brought me luck.

My parents’ house was in chaos.  Excitement flowed from every crack in the house.  Talk and laughter was in abundance.  The dress my mother sewed was at the church waiting for me to slip inside it.  The bridesmaids were there also, in their pink chiffon dresses.

It was time to leave for the rectory at San Jose Catholic Church.  My parents compromised on food and music, but Catholicism was not optional.  The bridesmaids took pictures every time I turned around.  The flash from the camera’s light bulb caused my eyes to see spots and I was unable to focus.  None of it mattered because I was on top of the world and felt like the luckiest woman alive. Eventually, we proceeded to the Church.

My handsome Dad, dressed in his black suit, marched me down the aisle and as I looked at him in his freshly ironed white shirt, my eyes noticed his black shoes had the best shine ever.  He winked and smiled and as he placed my hand in Joe’s, and I wondered, as I saw the tears run down his cheeks, what he must be thinking.

He was giving his little girl away in marriage and the fear of loss weighed heavily on his mind.  I would never be a little girl again.  I smiled at him and thought of the saying “you’re not losing a daughter, you’re gaining a son.”

Joe took my hand and walked me up to the altar.  We were to kneel on a step before the altar but I knelt on a step lower than the one Joe was on.  Once he helped me move to his level, the wedding ceremony continued. 

All went well, until we reached the most important part of the ceremony – exchanging our vows.  I panicked and giggled.  These giggles always gave my nervousness away.  “Get a grip,” the voice in my head said.  I closed my eyes and thought, help me make it through the wedding!

Fr. John, the priest at San Jose Catholic Church, held my right hand gently for emotional support.  He eased my nervousness.  The congregation saw my shoulders shake, but they thought I was crying.

I managed to say, “I take you, Joe, to be my lawfully wedded husband,” and then BAM!  At that point, I lost composure.  I burst out with a nervous laughter.  It was visible to all how my shoulders shook.  Fr. John took my hand, smiled and whispered, “It’s ok.  Take a deep breath.”  Tears swelled in my eyes and I continued, “To cherish and to hold, to love, honor and obey ‘til death do us part.”  Then thought, “WHEW!  I made it!”

As Joe said his part or rather tried to say his lines against my giggles, I had another attack of laughter and again Fr. John squeezed my hand to calm me down or perhaps, to shut me up!  When Joe did say, “I do,” my heart leapt within my body with great excitement.  He looked at me as one would gaze upon a work of art and smiled.

When it was my turn to say, “I do,” the church suddenly became dark and quiet.  Or was it just me?  I swayed to my left and nearly fainted but Fr. John held my body in place and kept me from falling.  I shook with anxiety as Joe slipped the wedding ring on my finger.  This ring, a symbol of our love, told the world Joe and I were one.  I will never take it off my finger.  The inner voice in my head vowed.

At the reception, friends and relatives told me they cried along with me when Joe and I exchanged our vows.  They saw my shoulders shake and figured I was crying with excitement.  Little did they know!

On our way to Mexico City, we stopped in San Antonio.  It was late when we checked into a Howard-Johnson Motel off IH-35 in San Antonio.  I showered and carefully applied lotion all over my body.  I dressed in a simple, yet, delicately made white lingerie.  The gown was v-shaped in front and back, with thin spaghetti straps that tied at the shoulders and it accentuated the fullness of my breasts.  What would Joe think?  I wondered.

Once dressed, I sat on the lid of the commode and waited for my nerves to calm down.  I thought about the nuns at San Jose Church.  Did I make the right decision?

Before I met Joe, I spent many of my afternoons after school with the nuns at the convent.  They were from the Holy Cross order and I asked them many questions in preparation of becoming a nun.  As a nun, I wanted to teach elementary grades.  Only once did I have second thoughts and broke off the engagement in hopes of pursuing the religious life.  Joe’s parents visited me at my parents’ house and commented that I could have both God and Joe in my life.  They assured me that God would always be with me and that my marriage would consist of God, Joe and me, and someday our children.  I suppose married life was my destination.

Nervousness, bred the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach yet, it was because of the doctor’s talk that I had some idea of what to expect.  I remained in the bathroom an hour and a half!

By the time I got out of the bathroom, Joe had fallen asleep on the bed.  I quietly went to him, but he had fallen asleep and did not hear me, I did not want to wake him.  He must be tired, I thought.  I sat and waited on the edge of the bed until he woke up!

1Cr 7:34 There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband.  (King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Making love was both clumsy and exciting.  Joe’s kisses were warm and delicious. He held me gently as he kissed my neck.  Gentle still, as his lips traveled down my neck and found my breasts.  Just as the doctor foretold, Joe ran his hands all over my body.  Something in Joe came alive and I felt him as he got harder and bigger. 

To my surprise, I became excited.  There’s no way that that ‘thing’ is going to go inside of me, I thought.  No way! 

A completely different world opened up for us in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.  We shopped on the main street and repeatedly heard a catchy phrase, “I make you a special deal.”  I sat on the main street’s sticky curb and posed for a talented street vendor, who pencil sketched of my face.

Monterrey, Mexico is 150 miles from the U.S. border in Texas and is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains with a spectacular mountain view, which is dominated by the distinctive Cerro de la Silla, a saddle-shaped peak.  There we visited the Basilica de Roble and its towering bell tower, which is visible from all over central Monterrey.

At nightfall, we were back on the road again.  I read a book in the backseat of the car as Joe drove.  Reading took my mind off the drive and eased my fears of driving in a strange country, especially through the mountainous region of Monterrey.

Driving through a small non-descript town, we spotted an open café at such a late hour and stopped in for a much needed pit stop.  I had a limited Spanish vocabulary yet I thought I knew enough to ask for a simple thing as a restroom. 

I walked across the wooden floor and asked the thirty-something Mexican waitress, “Tienes, uno resto-roomo?”  She gave me a puzzled look and shook her head saying, “No comprendo.”

I looked at Joe for help, who spoke better Spanish.  He repeated the exact question using the very same words.  Again, the waitress shook her head. 

I tried another question, “Uh, Tienes escusau?” (Do you have a restroom?)

She brought her shoulders up and lifted her hands in front of her, palms up, and said, “No comprendo.”

We looked at each other, and then back to her.  And it was then that it occurred to us we were speaking Tex-Mex, spoken in Texas and along the border.  We were more in the interior than along the border and did not know the proper Spanish word for restroom.  “Muy triste!” (How sad!), I thought.  “We can’t speak Spanish.”

I needed to go!  So, I pantomimed the movements.  I pretended to lift up my skirt and squad down.  Bingo!  The waitress understood and rushed me right away to the baño (restroom).  And in the nick of time!

We continued our drive to Mexico City in the dark and found a hotel for the night.  We visited a Basilica where I witnessed men and women on their knees outside the church.  They threw handfuls of pebbles in front of them, and then walked on their knees over the pebbles through the church doors to the altar as an act of contrition.

We saw the Tilma, a rectangular-shaped cloak on which the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe (the Virgin Mary) is emblazoned as she appeared to Juan Diego in 1531.  

In 1531, ten years after the fall of the Aztec empire by Spaniard forces, a poor Indian named Juan Diego was walking over the hills just north of Mexico City, where the land is dry and rocky.  He passed by the hill of Tepeyac, once the site of the temple to Tonanzin, the gentle goddess of earth and corn, whose name means “our mother”. The Spaniards had destroyed this and most of the other sacred places and they forbade the Indians from praying to their protecting spirits.  As Juan Diego passed this site on the hill, he smelled an unbelievable heavenly fragrance, which surrounded the spot.  A “Lady from Heaven” appeared, robed in blue, gold, and rose.  She identified herself as the Mother of the True God and instructed him to have the bishop build a shrine to her on the very place of the fallen goddess.  The bishop did not believe the peasant and sent him away. Ashamed that he had failed the lady from heaven, Juan Diego avoided the spot, passing the next day on the other side of the hill. But she found him and urged him once again.  He told her that the bishop demanded proof of her appearance.  It was not until the third appearance to him, that she sent proof of this miracle.  She told him to pick the flowers. Although impossible to exist in that climate the flowers grew in abundance at that place.  He gathered them in his tilma.  She told him not to put them down until he was in the presence of the church dignitary. When he did this, in the cathedral of Tlatelolco, they saw that on the front of his tilma was an image miraculously imprinted of the Blessed Virgin and the beautiful flowers lay at her feet.

The tilma, which should have deteriorated in 20 years, showed no signs of decay.  It defies scientific explanations of its origin.  Supposedly, the Virgin of the Tilma reflects in her eyes what was in front of her in 1531!

How I enjoyed visiting different churches, each with their own history and architectural style.  I must admit though, I think I overdosed on the churches because after seeing several, they all started to look the same.  And almost every Catholic Church we visited had a replica of the tilma.  The replicas were beautifully made of either dyed pinto beans or multi-colored tiles.

Aside from the churches, the best memory is that of a bullfight.  I cannot clearly recall the entire details of the bullfight other than the picadors, the matadors, the bull and the banderillero.  The matadors enticed the bulls with their bright red capes and teased them to charge after the cape.  I can still hear the excitement of the crowd when the banderillero drove the sticks into the neck or back of the bull.

Bulls hate horses almost as dogs hate cats.  The picador rides in on a horse and tries to drive a lance or pike into the bull’s neck muscle.  He is only supposed to use the lance to stop the bull as it tries to gore the horse.  The matador entices the bull away with his cape until the bull charges the horse again.  When the bull has charged the horse a number of times and been sufficiently weakened, the signal is given for the banderillas to be used.  These are pairs of sticks the length of a man’s arm with vicious, harpoon-like points.  The banderillero, who may be the matador, is now without a cape and uses his body and voice to coax the bull into charging.  He drives the banderillas into the bull’s neck or back as the bull charges past him, and allows the bull to run away.

At times, we ate from the vendors on the streets without regard to caution.  I absorbed as much of the culture as I possibly could; the atmosphere, the people, their foods, and their way of life.  I knew the Lord had provided the wonderful weather we had on those beautiful fun-filled days for the two of us.

After a second day of lovemaking, soreness set in and it hurt to walk.  By the fourth day, the soreness had subsided and we were able to take long walks, hand in hand, on the tree-lined sidewalks.  We ate beef tacos, candies, fruits and ice cream from the street vendors.  We tried varieties of fruit drinks, enjoying each to the last drop, but every now and then, a child ran up to us with his/her hands extended and asked for whatever we were drinking or eating.  We often gave away our half-eaten food or if the cart vendor was nearby, we bought food, fruit, and drink for them to eat.  It was a realization in truth that no matter how much one thinks they do not have there are those who have less.

Montezuma awaited Joe on the way to Acapulco and took his revenge.  Something he ate messed up his stomach and he threw up its contents at both ends.  We put Acapulco on hold, cut short our honeymoon and returned home.

Although, our honeymoon was a brief ten days, it was a time of learning and exploration.  Those ten days opened an awareness of sexual curiosity in me.  It was a time of exploration.  It was a time of introduction to my own body’s desires.  With excitement, we learned each other’s bodies.  We learned to value and appreciate our bodies in a different way than I ever thought possible.  I knew then that I would never be that little girl again, the one my father gave in marriage.  Thus, begun our sexual relationship as man and wife, which was special to only the two of us.

Once home, Mom took me aside and confidentially asked, “Did you remember to take your pills?” she asked with all the sincerity of a concerned mother.

“Oh, yes,” I answered with a smile that stretched from ear to ear on my face, and then added, “I really didn’t need them.  I was sore and it hurt me to walk.”  We laughed aloud.

At home, Joe and I opened our wedding gifts, mailed thank you cards and then re-boxed the gifts.  We carefully placed them inside my bedroom closet, where they would remain untouched until our return from Europe.

Joe returned to Germany where he was serving his tour of duty.  Before he came to the States for the wedding, Joe auditioned for a clarinet position on the United States Army European (USAREUR) Band in Heidelberg, Germany.  A few days before his departure to the States, he received good news of his acceptance into the USAREUR Band.

I continued to work as a data entry operator for the Internal Revenue Service.  Four months later, I followed him to Heidelberg.

The morning of my departure was a cold December day.  Dad gathered Eugene and Tommy to wish me a tearful goodbye.  I sensed they feared for my safety in flying and of the uncertainty of living in a foreign country.  As they stood before me, I could not help thinking with mature awareness that the days of Cowboys and Indians were long gone.

“I’ll wear the white hat,” Tommy said as he placed it on his wavy brown hair.  It was understood — good guys wore white hats.  Then he pointed at me and directed, “You’re the Indian.”

“I’m always the Indian,” I complained. 

Eugene was quick to say, “I’ll be the soldier.”  He tied a dark blue handkerchief around his neck and placed a cap upon his head.  Eugene had curly black hair, which curled up along the edges of the cap.

“Why can’t you be an Indian like me?” I asked.

“Because you always die,” he answered and smiled.

Eugene created the scenario.  The Indian was to steal one of the horses from the unsuspecting rancher, the good guy.  The rancher was to enlist the help of a soldier stationed at Fort Sosa.  (Dad had constructed a tower of bricks, which we named Sosa.)  The solider wore a holster with a (play) gun.  Together they were to track the Indian, until the Indian was either caught or killed.  They both turned to me for my reaction.

“Gosh! I’m a horse thief and an Indian.” I exclaimed but my complaints went unacknowledged.  I picked up a rooster’s feather from the ground and stuck it in my long dark brown hair.  We each picked up our broomstick horses, saddled in, and off we rode, barefoot, in different directions – the chase was on. 

I kissed them both on their cheeks and hugged them.  It was an emotional moment.  Not much was said.  I held their hands and told them, “I love you, my brothers.”  I could tell that they both were holding back tears by the glassy look in their eyes.  “I’ll miss you,” I cried.

At the airport, it was Dad’s turn, he was unable to blink his tears away; the tears ran down his cheeks like an open faucet.  Mom gave me advice and comfort, “If things don’t work out, all you have to do is call.”  That’s my mom, I thought. 

“I’ll miss you, Mom.”  And with that, I left them and walked alone to the plane.

It was my first time to fly and I was afraid.  I was reluctant in leaving the security of my home.  But I knew I had to conquer my fears or put them aside because to get to Joe I was to board that plane.

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