It would’ve been my sister Vivian’s 92nd birthday this past Friday, and we remembered her with loads of love, along with the empty space she left in our hearts. She left her son, George, and two daughters Janice and Marcie in that order, and their families. She trailed along after me being born a year-and-a-half later arriving on November 11, 1919 — the second Armistice Day. We had a cousin on our Mother’s side born on the 11th of November 1918, which was the big day when World War I came to an end, and the horns were blaring, and the church bells were really ringing. Uncle George and Auntie Mabel named their child Victory Peace Corbett, and I can easily see where they were coming from. When my little sis came along a year later, we went to the Serra Chapel in Mission San Juan Capistrano for her baptism, and the folks named her Vivian. All these years I never knew where that name popped up from. In fact, I never even asked. I wonder if Vivian knew. Maybe her kids do.
I can remember the two cribs we slept in crammed into our folks master bedroom. Those are probably my earliest memories. After that, when we were 2 and 3, or maybe 3 and 4, there was an episode which took place in San Juan Capistrano at Aunt Mae and Titán’s old home on the old State Highway (El Camino Real) about a block or 2 from downtown. The cook had rung the little bell to summon everyone to lunch, and I would imagine she would wonder if she had enough food to serve. It was quite the thing for people to stop in at the “right” time to get an invitation for lunch — well, the cook could always put on another steak or two. Salesmen for ranch stuff would sometimes be there, or different friends, and this particular day it was Mr.Carrillo who would drive down from El Toro. He was a cousin of Leo Carrillo, who oftentimes would stop by on his way from Santa Monica to Tijuana, but he would always phone before he left home. Old Mr. Carrillo would just arrive, and I would bet that he was the most frequent impromptu diner.
I thought of him as being old because he was older than my folks and Aunt and Uncle. I was in awe of him. He was quite tall, carried himself very straight, wore rancher-type clothes and a handsome Stetson hat. He was a very good-looking man with gray hair worn to his collar, great full eyebrows, and a huge handlebar mustache. A very kind looking face went with all this. He was one of those unforgettable human beings.
He had an accent (the type from Spanish to English) and when we were eating the lunch, everyone was just waiting for him to ask “Pass the grahvy, Mae.” Viv and I would kind of poke each other or smirk a little until Mom would catch our eyes and give us such a look which would straighten our faces immediately.
Lunch was still going on — the elders were still eating and conversing, and Aunt Mae had to keep passing the grahvy to Mr. Carrillo. Viv and I asked to be excused to go outside and play. Off we went, and it wasn’t too long before we got into some sort of disagreement. I was probably trying to get her to see things my way. After all, I was the older. I whacked her on her head (not too hard, her feelings were no doubt hurt) and she began to yell and cry, and so I put my arms around her very tenderly, helping her up the back steps and into the dining room. All the while, she was still screaming and carrying on like I had killed her, and I am still trying to be very gentle with her. I told everyone that “Poor Viveen fa’ down and hit ‘er head.” Well, with that announcement that I made she stopped all that bawling and YELLED out: “No, no Meta hita on the head!” I don’t know what punishment I was given. It’s one of those selective remember, or a selective forget.
Last week I was telling how several of our families would go up “off the Ortega” into one of the many canyons where we would camp out for a little vacation. The men would go off early in the morning to hunt dove or quail, and when they returned, it was up to the older kids to pick all those little feathers off. And Miss Vivian was very conspicuous by her absence. She probably went off with the younger kids so she could act like she was looking after them.
If you read the Replies to my blog for last week, you may have seen the Reply from Jan, my niece up in Fair Oaks, outside of Sacramento. Here is what she had to say:
“That was a great story! My mom (Viv) never did like the idea of plucking birds, but I remember sitting in the walnut tree in Fullerton watching Grandma Tome and Aunt Dodie pluck the feathers off chickens. Love butter, mushrooms, mayo, and tequila —need to acquire a taste for olives.”
If Janice had grown up in my era, she would’ve loved olives. On the ranch in San Juan there were a number of olive trees which had been brought when the missionaries established the missions in California. Every year there would be 3 or 4 huge vats full of olives being cured in the milk house — some green, some ripe, some calamata style. They all had the pits, but who cared?
I have brought up a number of subjects, and I am beginning to get tired anyway, so will end this and leave everyone wondering what I can come up with next.
MELITAS FORSTER FOR VIV 11/11/11