🇺🇸🇲🇽🇬🇧Borderland stories No. 1: Memories for a Family Reunion🇬🇧🇲🇽🇺🇸
Mom's family was from Aguascalientes, MX. Dad's family was from Arkansas, and he had one brother, Clinton.
- •IntroductionJackson history stretches to pre-1776 Massachusetts, across the Atlantic to London's Whitechapel, and reaches to 13th C Yorkshire (for now). In the late 1800s, my Gonzalez family emigrated from Aguascalientes, Mexico (with a touch of the German or Belgian) to work for a smelting and refining company.
- •Before the dust bowl and the stock market crash my dad, his brother, and their parents resettled here in far west Texas.The brothers were born in Oklahoma as my paternal grandparents moved to Oklahoma immediately after they were married in 1924. My grandmother always dressed her sons alike. They were 14 months apart in age.
- •My uncle's portrait was taken at the photo studio where my dad first worked after high school.For a long time I thought my dad took this portrait, but he explained he did the darkroom work. The woman who owned the studio trained young women to take the portraits.
- •Here is my dad in a picture taken by his mom
- •In 2007, dad and I went to see my uncle's grave at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.My uncle passed away from emphysema at 79 a few months earlier. He smoked Camels since 15 or so, even up to when taking O2. (Don't try that at home.) Tall with steel blue eyes, he joined the navy at 17 and was sent to the South China Sea. At his Masonic wake and funeral, a younger man who operated my uncle's favorite BBQ joint spoke about how my uncle essentially held court, telling all about his exploits during WWII. I never knew any of those stories. They are lost to my family and me
- •Dad did not serve in the military due to a juvenile bone disease.We think it was Leg-Perthes. Given his physical issues, dad, as dad did, complained he was called up twice for the draft. He told me the day we inspected Clinton's grave that he didn't mind going to a cemetery in which he stood no chance of being buried. He died in 2015 at age 89 from COPD and kidney failure. He smoked unfiltered Chesterfields (loved Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, and Chesterfield sponsored the radio shows.) Dad started smoking in high school, too, but quit in his 50s.
- •My mother had nine brothers and two sisters who survived to adulthood; all were born here in El Paso.My youngest uncle was the only child born in a hospital. Twelve were born at home; but the second oldest, a girl, died around age two. Today, I have two uncles, Robert and Richard.
- •Every Sunday, my parents and I would drive to see my abuelos at La Esmelda (Smeltertown) which once stood across from the ASARCO plant. I think the round trip was 30 miles.After visiting my paternal grandfather, we drove to La Esmelda. Mid 60s, dad went to work at his friend's testing laboratory. He formed cement samples into cylinders, and collected soil for compaction tests. After 21 days, cured concrete is tested. He tested the ASARCO smokestack concrete while under construction. It was demolished in April 2013. In the 70s, La Esmelda was destroyed—all its hand-built houses, school, church—dissolved from political showboating and environmental concerns.
- •Last Sunday, my cousins, uncles, aunts, and I gathered together for a meeting to plan our first family reunion.Here is a group picture of my mother with her brothers and sisters taken by my dad (with 3 uncles of the 12 missing). Mom in glasses stands next to my tio Ricardo to her left. Opposite, stand her sisters Maria and Consuelo. I love them in yellow. Reticent, dad would have begged off going. Mom would have been excited we to have a reunion and would have contributed chisme (gossip), like why some weren't going. I'm going to interview family members beginning with Richard on Tuesday, July 5
- •With family conversations come insight into our lore. Last week, I learned the whole story about the turkey.Previously, i only knew that some headless fowl had chased my mom around the yard after being beheaded. All these years, and I didn't know if it was a turkey or chicken, or for what event it had been slaughtered.
- •Tio Roberto began by explaining that one year there had been a strike against ASARCO that stretched into November.Richard explained that when my abuelo came home with 50 pound bags each of beans and rice, there was to be a long strike. During these times the family had meat just once a week. As the strike continued past Halloween, the family feared there would be no Thanksgiving dinner that year.
- •But cunningly before the holiday, my abuela took the bus and went "to town," by herself, emboldened to solve the problem.The second act arrives when abuela pulls up in a taxi with ...a live turkey! She crossed to Cd. Juarez for the fowl and rode back across the bridge to El Paso, and then back to La Esmelda in the taxi. Segue to the end of the act when the headless fowl chases mom around the yard. The third act begins with my abuela and aunt making tortillas, frijoles, and rice. The fade to black comes at the end, as everyone enjoys el cocono (pavo) presented that Thanksgiving Day.
- •What remains to be told are more stories, including the tales of a new mattress, the turquoise swimming pool, and a ruby ring.Those will come soon.