International Women’s Day

8 Mar

I didn’t start this day thinking I should write a post about International Women’s Day but as the day grew on I knew I had to write about one very special woman who was a massive influence on who I became. I just went digging through my boxes of photos and unfortunately this is the only one I could find of her but everyone – meet my grandmother Dolores Ojeda.

Grandma

It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to appreciate just what an incredible woman she was. This photo was taken on the day of my high school graduation, my Dad reserved the private room of one of the nicest places in all of Montebello to celebrate this grand event. She’s wearing her go to dress, I’m sure somewhere on the booth is her white sweater she would wear with this. She’s there with my two cousins and another in the booth behind, all of the little girls in this photo are now grown up with children of their own.

So what made “Fat Grandma” the greatest? Well first she let us call her “Fat Grandma”, she was carrying a bit of weight on her and well our other grandmother weighed about 90 pounds soaking wet and holding a brick. She grew up in Bakersfield during the great migration from the dust bowl and family lore has it that she was being groomed to be married off to someone with a bit of money but luckily for us she hopped the fence one day and ran away to start a life with our grandfather. With that man she would have three children the first one being my Dad. Their life together was cut short after an accident in Mexico took him away far too soon and she was left a single mother in 1960. So what did Dolores do? She went to work! Some of my earliest memories of her are visiting her at the Thrifty’s Coffee Shop where she was a waitress until they closed the restaurant. My tea kettle I use today is one that she swiped from the shop and I think of her each time I use it.

Somewhere in the early 80’s my Dad took full time custody of me and my two siblings and when we needed a place to live grandma moved out and let my Dad move in to the home she had been in for decades. Her sacrifice enabled us to have some stability and get back to growing up. She would often stop by to clean the house or visit with her sister who lived on the opposite corner. Sometimes she would comment on the neighbors my favorite was her annoyance at the house across the way that had a few teenage daughters who had boys coming to honk their horns when they came to pick them up for dates. She taught us that you should never go out with a man that won’t come to the door to pick you up.

We would also go on adventures to Downtown LA, she loved the bustle of a city or to the Golden Gate theater to see movies. She taught us how to ride the bus and not to take any crap from anyone even if that meant you had to swing around a sock full of nickels to scare them away. You would always get at least $10 to run to the concession stand to get her a cup of ice or candy and she would never ask for change back.

Dolores was a strong independent woman that was bound by a few ideals that I wish she didn’t feel the need to live by. She had this man in her life that she said you had to have someone or people would think you’re ‘funny’. He didn’t seem to really add much to her life and really wish she could have just been allowed to be single and not have to worry about what everyone thought. I also wish she had believed in her abilities a bit more, she was smart but there were things she never did like learn to drive. When I was 16 I went to pick up my grandmother for my brother’s graduation and she sat in the passenger seat just smiling at me and a little tear rolled down her cheek. I asked her why she was crying and she said she was just happy I was driving. I can’t help but wonder where she would have gone if she knew how to drive, I can picture her now just winding her way all over California going where she wanted to.

So that’s it readers – your inspiration doesn’t have to come from some grand woman in history. It could be anyone! I know I wouldn’t be a fraction of the woman I am today without this woman who also let me know it’s ok to be the kind of woman that would receive a holiday card from the local bar. I wish the Wagon Wheel was still open so I could go there and hold a glass aloft in toast to you grandma, I hope you’ve got a beer with you somewhere and are watching the sights.

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