Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Mom, Bobbie Jean

Who would I least likely trust to pilot a plane I was traveling in? Probably my Mom, Bobbie Jean. Why? To begin with Mom didn’t drive and never had a driver’s license to my knowledge, but she almost had a pilot’s license. When I was about five years old in the early 1950s, Dad landed a job in Southern California as a welder and with some of the big bucks, Mom took flying lessons at the Compton airport. She even flew a small plane solo! I would never believe it unless I saw it myself.

Now this is puzzling because only a few years before in the mid 1940s, Mom was diagnosed as schizophrenic in Vinita, Oklahoma. Actually she was probably just an eccentric individual suffering postpartum depression.  She had lost her first child to sudden infant death syndrome.  After that loss every time she had a child (five living of which I am the oldest) she would also lose her mind.   In Oklahoma, being a woman in the 1940s and wanting to fly a plane was probably grounds for a schizoid diagnosis. During those days schizophrenia was the most popular mental diagnosis, much like bipolar was 25 years ago up to today. Oklahoma is a state that frequently seems to have a low level of tolerance and Mom did march to a different drummer.

Mom dropped out of school during junior high school in Chelsea, Oklahoma when her 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Franklin, told Mom she had to play the part of a monkey in the school play. Perhaps it was a play based on the Darwin Scopes trial, but whatever it was my Mom refused. Years later when living with my grandparents, I too was appalled at Mrs. Franklin‘s insensitivity and harsh treatment of shy students. Eventually I avoided the same teacher’s classes, not by dropping out of school, but by taking Senior English when a Junior and Speech for Junior English. Mom was right on Ms. Franklin.

Mom so wanted to be special she reinvented her birth date. She told everyone that her birthday was January lst, 1924. She was a New Year’s Eve baby by choice. No one ever contradicted her. Years later when I got involved in doing genealogy to enroll my niece and nephews in the Cherokee Nation, I found out after receiving my Mom’s birth certificate that she was actually born on January 2nd. I never mentioned it to her, nor did anyone else in the family. Mom was the middle of three girls and it is said by psychologists that it is always difficult for the middle child. This theory certainly proved to be true in my Mom’s case.

Mom, although poorer than a church mouse was generous. She frequently sent clothes to me in Alaska that she bought at sales in Southern Illinois. Some of the things she sent I remember taking to the Anchorage Sullivan Area Fleas Markets in the 1980s to resell. Many of the items were sold to strippers at the now defunct PJ’s (Poppa Joe’s) in Spenard, things I would never wear, even if I could. As my middle sister Angie likes to say, Mom was not boring. I still have tucked away a pair of blue denim cowboys boots and a red purse Mom sent me back in the 1980s…mementos.

When we got our third Alaska Permanent Fund dividend from the state in 1985, I decided to fly my folks up from Southern Illinois in the summer of 1986. We had a great time. It wasn’t a typical tourist vacation. Mom wasn’t much into sight seeing, mostly she wanted to play Bingo, saying it “is good for your mind”, although not one’s pocket book, and we haven’t played since then.

For the trip Mom brought a fancy long dress she wanted to have her picture taken in in front of our house with Dad, not in front of Denali or any other famous Alaska tourist attraction, but our house. Mom said I was very fortunate to live in such a place and although I consider our home modest, I guess I am fortunate in that respect. 
We took my folks to Portage Glacier, Indian, Palmer to see the big veggies, to take a look at my land in Rabbit Creek Heights, but we didn’t make it to our other land in Talkeetna or Seldovia. Perhaps the days of living in Chicago, California and in a card board house on the Colorado River in Parker, Arizona had made Mom and Dad into jaded tourists. They didn’t do as much as most normal tourists do, but they weren‘t the norm, especially my Mom.

Bobbie, Mary & Bob - Palmer, Alaska Summer 1986
Before my folks bored the plane back to Southern Illinois, we had our farewell party at Dunkin Donuts after first taking Mom‘s picture next to a small plane at Lake Hood near our house. The plane was similar to the one she had flown years before. Like the Anchorage Dunkin Donuts, my parents have passed on but not the memories. May Mom and Dad rest in peace high on the wind blown hill at the Chelsea, Oklahoma Dawes Cemetery.
2/2/1924  -  2/8/1998

Written  for Memoir Writing Group -
December 29, 2007 in memory of Mom’s birthdayS,
short version May 10, 2011-Anchorage Genealogy Society Mother's Day Remembrance

No comments:

Post a Comment