My mother very often did what was expected of her. She like most of her generation were raised that way. But in her own way she was unconventional as well.
Her middle name was Dolores, which is the name I knew her to be called. At home though, her childhood home, she was called Loli.
Loli was raised by her grandmother, who did the best she could with support from the extended family. They lived in a small shack in a back yard of a relative. They had no running water, and no electricity. Her grandmother made and sold tortillas to support them.
Although poor, her grandmother managed to send her to Catholic school until the eighth grade, at which point Loli was told she would have to work to help support the family.
Loli did as she was told, and worked menial minimum wage jobs. After some years, she got a letter from a cousin who moved to California. She learned that in California, she could go to night school and receive a high school diploma. It was a way out. When she announced her intention to go, her grandmother agreed and they both made the move west.
In California she quickly found work in a cannery. She rented an apartment for herself and her grandmother and became the bread winner of the household.
She worked six days a week in the factory. Her grandmother packed her lunches, that included a pack of cigarettes. The workers received smoking breaks, but Loli wasn’t much of a smoker. She would light the cigarettes and hold it between her fingers allowing it to burn so she could take a break.
After some time, an opportunity came up to be advanced. Loli was told she could even be a foreman in a few years. But, that was not what she went to California to do. Instead she enrolled in night school so she could pass her GED.
Her first thought was to be a secretary, but she had little aptitude for typing and shorthand. Her instructor suggested nursing.
Loli continued working, and was able to provide a better life for herself and her grandmother. Her paycheck always went to her guardian though, who allowed her to buy new clothes and even a tree at Christmas. But Loli was getting older. By cultural standards she was already an old maid at the age of twenty-one.
They were living in San Jose, and Loli was working in a Mexican restaurant when a couple of Airmen came in. They came down from Travis Air Force Base to attend a dance. One of the young men made small talk asking Loli’s age, how tall she was and if she was Catholic. Then they invited her and her coworker to the dance. When the Airmen left the restaurant, her friend turned to her and said “that man wants to marry you.”