Oh, my son’s my son till he gets him a wife,
But my daughter’s my daughter all her life.
— Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, 1826-1887
“What are you doing?” I asked husband Larry as he was pulling down all the window shades at noon in our hotel room, where we were staying for a three day Institute of Electrical Engineers convention in downtown Los Angeles.
He smiled at me, “I want a baby girl.”
Less than a year later, May 16, 1949, to be exact, I was lying on the delivery table watching the clock, which showed 8:20.
In the hospital room I had been having a pleasant time talking with the relatives of a young girl in the same hospital room with me as we awaited delivery of our babies. She was Italian, and as was their custom her entire family was there—about twenty people. Only eight or ten, mostly women, could gather around her bed at one time, so the brothers and cousins came to surround my bed and keep me entertained. They were curious about me. “How many children do you already have?”
“How come no one is here with you?”
“My husband and my mother and father were here earlier, but hospital rules won’t let children on the delivery floor, so they all went home to take care of our three little boys. Carl has just turned two, Lee is three, and Larry is almost five.”
It was a few minutes before eight when the nurse came in and shooed away my roommate’s relatives, transferred me from bed to gurney, and then wheeled me down the hall to the delivery room. I had no idea how she knew it was time. I was completely relaxed and comfortable.
Now it was 8:20 and I was lying on the delivery table watching the clock. The doctor and nurses busied themselves with preparations for the delivery when the doctor told me, “All right now, push.” I was busy pushing, with my eyes closed, and when I looked at the clock again it was 8:27.
It was an easy delivery and I felt no discomfort. The nurse had cleaned the baby’s face, wrapped her in a soft blue blanket, and held her up for me to see. We had a girl.
In those days we had no way to know the child’s sex until the baby was born. Larry and I had already picked the name Holly for our girl child. Holly’s expression was serene and self-assured. She has maintained those attitudes to this day.
Husband Larry was ecstatic to welcome this little girl into our family fold. Well, she was not so little. She was nine pounds four ounces, twenty-one inches long, and has always been a big, tall person.
As she grew, she was surrounded by her three older brothers and their friends, so she was more comfortable with boys than with girls. When she was four she ran with three boys, also her own age, who lived in our block.
One day a knock came on our front door. It was the next door neighbor, bringing with him a policeman. Holly and her friends had climbed his avocado tree, which hung over his fence into the alley as well as our yard, and had conducted a full scale war, grabbing his baby avocados as ammunition. The settlement was $20.
When she was eight we added my second husband’s two kids, who were within the same age range as my four, to the mix. We spent every weekend going to museums, hiking, camping, swimming, and other activities. We did Brownies and Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Church School, and Junior Life Guards. At bedtime every night we would light a candle, set it in the middle of the floor, and have a candlelight ceremony. Then we would read a chapter of a book—the one she best remembers was Cheaper by the Dozen.
At age eleven Holly decided she did not want to have any children because of the world population explosion. At age thirteen she realized that if she was not going to have children, she did not have to get married. By the time she was in high school she said she was sick of school and didn’t want to go to college. Upon high school graduation she went to work for the Bell telephone company. They insisted on a verbal commitment that if they hired her she would stay a full year. After that year was up she knew with complete conviction that she must complete her education to get a job she would enjoy.
Somewhere in that time frame she decided she was going to be “a Great Lady Therapist.” In September she enrolled at Cal State Northridge in the psych department. As part of her undergraduate work she volunteered at Penny Lane, a rehab facility for delinquent teen aged girls. She decided she would dedicate her career to helping take care of other people’s children. Penny Lane offered her a job before she was out of school. All her thirty-five year career she was always offered jobs, and never had the anxiety provoking experience of applying for one.
When she was forty she decided that if she were to die without having experienced marriage, she would feel deprived. At the same time she became a Born-Again Christian. After a year and a half, one of her Christian friends and she were married—she, the Great Lady Therapist, and he, a three-time World Champion Rodeo Roper.
It was a significant marriage. She provided for him the opportunity to go to computer classes, and for almost a year supported him while he explored different ways to make his living. At that point he was hired by the Christian Community to run Operation Blessing trucks throughout the western United States to pick up surplus food, and deliver it to communities that were in need. He loved that job, and when the funding was depleted her brothers financed two trucks for him to start his own business. When he had a mild heart attack she got him to a doctor and saw him through his ten months of convalescence, reorganizing his lifestyle for health and nutrition. Most important of all was how she helped him get joint custody of his seven-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, and then helping him and the child learn how to bond to each other as family.
What he did for her was to support and nurse her through a breast lumpectomy, and two years later through a double mastectomy. The hardest time of her life came when her beloved father Larry died, and Jack was a trump, nurturing and seeing her through her bereavement.
One Saturday night, after eight years of marriage, they were deciding what to watch on TV and one of them said, “I think you might be happier if you weren’t married to me.” The other one said, “I thought we had a good thing going. Let me think about it for a few days.” For a year they had been doing their best, each of them, to be a good spouse, but not being happy with the life they were living. They immediately filed for divorce, and the next day he bought a horse to train for roping steers, and then he moved to Arizona to be a Rodeo Roper again. She was furious and disappointed that he had waited until the separation to get a horse—something she had wanted all her life.
At the same time she was invited to be clinical director at a private boarding school caring for incorrigible, wealthy kids who had brain dysfunctions, such as bipolar disorder. The school was housed on a four hundred fifty acre working ranch in Southern Oregon. She loved the ranch and she loved the kids.
One day, after working there a couple of years, she was telling me about one of her teenage clients who was interviewing her as part of his therapy journal assignments. His question to her was, “What do you expect to be doing ten years from now?” She surprised herself by replying, “I’ll probably be living with my mother.”
May 16, 2008: That was six years ago. Meanwhile we have melded our lives together. We have many friends, we go folk dancing several nights a week, we visit our family members regularly, we spend Fridays at Emeritus Autobiography class, and are nourished by visits to the beach. I am blessed.