Roma in the old truck, date unknown, image
© 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
Look at her smile.
I knew her smiles. I saw her dimples and I saw her straight teeth, and I saw the dance in her eyes, but I never saw the smile she’s wearing in that photo.
That is the smile of a woman in love. An adoring smile. Look at it.
That is the smile that tells me Roma was a woman and a lover and a friend before she ever became my grandmother.
My Aunt Sophie, the oldest of my grandmother’s children, wrote an essay about her mother. The following are excerpts taken from that piece.
Roma was my mother. I wonder what my grandparents were thinking when they named her Roma. Her family called her Romey, her friends called her Romana, and close friends and relatives called her Romanita.
Her birthday was February 28, 1904. A very special date to be born. It was the day before Leap Year. I can verify that she was special. She was beautiful, she was romantic and adventuresome…She loved deeply, and others loved her because of her friendliness and her ability to reach out to others. She was born of an era when being poor was fashionable; a time when adults told stories to children about caves, trains, owls, witches and demons; it was one way of keeping the children at home in the evenings. Roma was a wonderful story teller. She loved to make up stories and songs and dance and laugh, all in that order.
I like to think about who Roma was before she became a grandmother. She grew up in the mining camps of northeastern New Mexico. She went to public schools with the children of immigrants from Italy, Romania, and Yugoslavia.
She was 16 when she married, a handsome New Mexican who was killed in one of the state’s worst mining accidents. At the age of 18, Roma became a widow with two children, the youngest not even a month old. Then she met my grandfather.
Mom told us about the songs her mother sang, songs she learned in school. Aunt Sophie remembered them, too:
When we were children, Roma sang us songs using the sounds of her childhood. The words did not make much sense, but the melodies live in us to this day.
Hanti-Nanche tu ti maja, mata tu san ches san a ma way.
Another song, a blend of English and Spanish, went like this: Cuando estaba chiquitita me decía me mamá, Pretty Baby, Pretty Baby.
I always wonder who took that picture of her in the truck. How old was she? It’s hard to tell. I imagine it was my grandfather, her second husband. Everyone called him Sandy, even his kids. He was a cowboy.
They lived on a ranch, seven miles from school and Cimarron, the real Wild West. Where pavement ends and Hell begins.
One last thought from Sophie:
I always enjoyed looking at my mother’s profile when I was working with her at some project. She had an abundance of rich, black hair, and depending on what she wore, her eyes were sometimes green and sometimes blue and she had this mischievous smile. Sometimes I wondered what she was thinking, and I wondered too why a woman of this beauty would be living out here where only the cattle roam.