How to begin a story that really never began? Do I start the story off when I was all grown up? Or do I go way back to when I was a baby?—That is really when my adventures started.
Both Tom and I were raised in missionary families. Tom’s heritage of missionary work goes way back for six generations. Over the generations they have been missionaries all over; from Brazil to circuit riding in California to running an orphanage in Alaska. Tom grew up mostly in South America while I grew up in Mexico and India. We met in Japan—romantic, yes, but you’ll have to wait for that story.
I'm the one on the right
My parents were missionaries in Mexico when I was born (I was born in California during one of their breaks) and I spoke Spanish before English. After my younger sister was born my parents took a break and my dad went back to school and taught at Head Start for a while.
My lovely parents way back when
Later, when I was eight years old we lived in Mexico again while my dad taught English in . We lived in a campground—in a tent--for six months. Let me just say here that my mom is my hero. My older brother was born with severe cerebral palsy and by the time we were living in Mexico my parents had six kids and I was the ‘oldest’ at only seven years old. My mom hand washed laundry (including cloth diaper for at least two kids) for all of us.
We lived way outside the city and often when my dad came home from work he would bring milk but it would be sour—Mom turned it into a curdled milk desert. I love that about her; she always was positive and made the best of situations.
Other memories from that time: My sister and I learned to sing a traditional Neapolitan Christmas song (there was a community in Mexico from Naples, Italy) but then we were dressed in the traditional costume which included a tall hat with little eye slits. We had no dress rehearsal so the first time we put on the costumes was before we were put out on a stage with thousands/hundreds/maybe dozens of people. All I know is that I looked out of these tiny eyeholes and saw all these people watching me and promptly forgot the words to the song. My sister and I just stood there and stared. Later we got a doll from under the Christmas tree on the stage. I wish I had pictures of that event.
The campground filled up at winter with Snow Birds (those retired persons who head south for the winter). That was a fun time for us children because it was like having a bunch of grandparents around. Once I was stung by a wasp and I guess my cries drew a crowd and everyone had a remedy to try. Ice, honey, vinegar, etc. Finally one couple brought out a tube of black salve that really did the trick. They gave my dad the tube and it traveled with us around the world—it was miracle stuff. I wish I knew the name so I could buy some for my first aid kit.
Isn't it funny how you can tell nearly exactly how old a child is by their teeth?
While living there we survived a double hurricane that hit both coasts of Mexico at the same time with the crosswinds hitting us. It’s not a fantastic idea to ride out a huge storm in a tent. Especially not one with a flat roof. My dad stood in the center of the tent with a bucket holding a soccer ball balanced on his head to create a peak and let the rainwater run off. Soon the wind got strong enough to lift the whole tent filled with a family of eight and all their possessions right off the ground to come smashing down and snap all the poles. We took refuge in a friend’s travel trailer after that. Our lovely parachute that provided shade over our living area was ripped to shreds.
While living at this campground my dad converted our van into a nice little camper. The back had a big platform bed with storage underneath and then the middle had benches around a table that went down to form another bed with the benches. We spent a lot of time in that van. While building the benches and table my dad nearly cut his leg off with a circular saw. This van would play a big part in our lives in the months to come.
Part two: We move to Texas.