Category Archives: CONTENTS

Insidious Invisibility

I love newspapers. One of the most joyful sounds of my late childhood was the thump of The Wichita Falls Times, artfully folded into a kind of double boomerang that eased its flight from the hand of the boy on the bicycle to our front porch. I would retrieve the folded newspaper, unfold it, and plop myself down on the living room floor to peruse the headlines, read Dear Abby, Dr. Crane, letters to the editor, a few comic strips and cartoons, and, on Thursdays, the high school news roundup, “Teen Times.”

My family was too busy for the morning newspaper, The Wichita Falls Record News, but on Sundays, the two newspapers were combined into an extravaganza for all subscribers to either or both papers: The Sunday Times-Record News. It was rolled, not folded, because it was so thick, and it hit the porch with a thud rather than a thump. On rainy Sundays, it came encased in plastic.

After church on Sunday mornings, my family members would divide the paper into sections and then exchange them as we finished. I always wanted first shot at the full-color comics or the society pages. I was enthralled by the photographs of beautiful brides in full wedding dress and the artfully retouched portraits of brides-to-be with their engagement announcements. I would watch for news and photographs of the Junior Forum Debutante Ball in May and the more elite Cotillion Debutante White Tie Ball in December.

Before 1964, black people were required by law to live in designated sections of town. In Wichita Falls, that area was east of the railroad tracks, Flood Street and beyond. Mexicans lived there too, by custom rather than law, clustered on the side closer to the tracks. A few of them lived in the “white” part of town, like Dr. Martinez from Mexico City and his pale and elegant wife and daughters, whom the town people called “Spanish” to distinguish them from darker and less prestigious “Mexicans.”

There were two high schools in Wichita Falls then, but if you ask any white citizen over 65 how many there were, he or she will invariably answer, “One.” Wichita Falls High School was not the white high school. It was the high school. Booker T. Washington High School had excellent facilities, although even now I can’t say where they are located–somewhere, I assume, way beyond Flood Street. I have never seen them. Booker T had a championship football team, an outstanding marching band, and a choir that was recognized statewide and occasionally came to sing in the elegant churches of the white people.

This is where my love of The Wichita Falls Times connects with the myth of one high school in Wichita Falls. You see, the newspaper was, for me, a mirror of my world. I knew that there was Flood Street and beyond. I knew that kids who lived there went to Booker T. Washington High School. I even ventured a few times to their home football games to watch the jazzy marching band. There were black people in town working in the few jobs open to them. I went on mission expeditions to teach Vacation Bible School in the Projects. Some white people even trekked across muddy Flood Street to benefit from the excellent work and lower prices of the “colored” dentist at his elegant home with a built-on clinic.

I didn’t hate black people. I thought racism was evil and spoke against it on occasion. I didn’t hate or dislike black people, but I didn’t see black people. The mirror of my world, The Wichita Falls Times, didn’t report Booker T.’s sports news. Their many band and choir awards got no recognition or photographs in “Teen Times.” There were no photographs of black students doing anything at all. Black brides and debutantes were never featured on the society pages. Black churches were not included in Saturday’s “guide to worship services.” Even black crimes were usually reported only in the police notes at the back of the news. Black people were not allowed to patronize the same local restaurants where I ate or the stores where I shopped. When I traveled by bus, they had their sections in the station and on the bus, and they used the toilets and drinking fountains marked “colored.”

No, Wichita Falls, Texas, had no problem with black people. We simply ignored them to the point of near non-existence. There were no black faces reflected in our mirror on the world.

THE WAILING WOMAN OF TENOCHTITLÁN

Stories of mothers who kill their children, whether news reports, fiction, or myths and legends, awaken our primordial fear of all mothers’ power over their children. The unquestioning and unavoidable trust of an infant for the mother can be terrifying to a grown-up child who realizes that his own mother should not have been trusted with a helpless infant. According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their own children every year in the United States. La Llorona embodies the mythos of that fear. Stories of La Llorona have passed from generation to generation, starting long before anyone wrote them down. There are slightly different versions throughout Latin America and in regions of the United States that were once part of New Spain. The details vary, but the heart of the story remains the same: a loving mother has killed her children and cries out for them in the night. This is one Mexican version.


Along the streets where canals once carried water from Lake Texcoco into ancient Tenochtitlan, a soul-chilling sound can sometimes be heard, the voice of a woman shrieking and wailing, Ay! Mis hijos! ¿ Donde están mis hijos? (My children! Where are my children?) Some say they have seen a woman in white floating along those streets. She is La Llorona, the Wailing Woman. Some say she is the soul of indigenous Mexico, lamenting the loss of her descendants to European assimilation. Others tell a horrifying story of a woman whose spirit cannot rest because, in a moment of rage, she did the unthinkable.

A beautiful Aztec woman and a handsome aristocrat, a conquistador, loved each other. The Spaniard was not bold enough to make her his wife, but they had three children together. She waited eagerly for his visits, but one day he stopped coming. The young mother learned  her beloved conquistador had returned from Spain with an aristocratic Spanish wife. He loved his Aztec concubine, but he had agreed to an arranged marriage so he could secure his fortunes and his status in the New Spain’s colonial society.

The Aztec woman, devastated by her lover’s marriage, took their three children to one of the canals and drowned them. Realizing too late what she had done, she jumped in and drowned herself.


They say she still walks the streets where the canals used to flow, wailing eternally for her lost children through the dark windy nights.

See more posts at How about Mexico?

Keep That Stub!

You will receive a form like this either before you board, while you are on the plane, or when you land. Fill out both parts. When you go through Mexican immigration, they will ask you for one part, and they will stamp the other one and hand it back to you. Keep it in a safe place. It identifies you as someone who has entered the country legally, and you will be required to turn it in when you leave Mexico. Immigration officials in a few airports are experimenting with an automated version of this process. Instead of the second part of the two-part form, you will get a receipt similar to the ones you receive at US automated Customs stations. That is the paper you should keep for your departure from Mexico.

If you lose the form, you can get a new one for about thirty-five US dollars at your point of entry. If you had a connecting flight within the country before reaching your final destination, that means you will have to apply for the replacement form at the airport where you first landed. To avoid this kind of delay and inconvenience, take care of that little piece of paper! Keep it with your passport or in a place where you can find it at all times.

Biscuits and Pancakes

You don’t need to spend money on packaged biscuit and pancake mixes. This homemade mix is easy and works just as well as the store-bought product. If you don’t have powdered milk, you can leave it out of the mix and add milk instead of water when you make the biscuits or pancakes.


The Mix

Whisk together 2 c FLOUR, 1 T BAKING POWDER, 1/2 t SALT, and 1/2 c POWDERED MILK. Store in a closed container in a cool dry place.


Biscuits

Add 1/3 c OIL to 2 c MIX and enough WATER to make a soft dough. Knead gently for about 10 strokes. Use extra flour to avoid sticking. Form into balls and flatten to biscuit shape. Bake at 400º F for 10-12 minutes.


Pancakes

Mix together 2 c MIX, 1/3 c OIL, 1 EGG, and enough WATER to make a runny batter. Heat the skillet or griddle until a drop of water bounces off. Pour enough batter to make the size pancake you want. When it is dry around the edges and has bubbles all over the top, flip it over and finish cooking.

Packing Wisdom from a Veteran Stand-by

Packing can be stressful. What should I take? What if I forget something? I can’t guarantee that all stress will disappear if you follow these packing guidelines, but they should help. They have been gleaned from years of traveling, including a lot of stand-by travel as the fortunate relative of an airline employee. A lot of my own stress and a few mishaps have made me think about ways to avoid unpleasantries.

Don’t worry too much about forgetting things

Make sure you have your passport and tickets and your money and credit cards. You can buy a toothbrush! The same friend who gave me that advice also suggested this: when you think you are all ready, take twice as much money and half as many clothes! Not always possible, especially the money part, but worth thinking about.

If you travel often, keep your packing supplies–travel sizes of toiletries, plastic bags, shoe bags, and so on in your favorite suitcase ready to organize for your next trip.

Invest in a really sturdy rolling carry-on and a large-capacity personal item

I like a backpack as my personal item so that I can have my hands free when I need them and because I can carry more weight comfortably on my back than on my arm. My purse is packed away until I arrive. For short trips these should be all you need. You can always check the rolling carry-on if you want to, but you have to check a big suitcase or leave it behind. Ask your airline about rules, limitations, and extra charges for checked bags before you buy, pack, or check that bag. A foldable extra carry-on or suitcase is very useful if you find that your luggage expands during trips because of rushed-up packing or souvenir purchases at your destination.

Having to riffle through everything in the suitcase when you need one item is annoying, so I put things that are alike together to save time. The zippered compartments on the outside and inside of luggage are helpful, but I have never found a suitcase that has enough organizing pockets, so I use mesh laundry bags for different categories of clothing–one for underwear and socks, one for pants, one for tops, one for accessories. I include an extra one for bringing dirty clothes back home. A thick sealable plastic bag for a wet swimsuit or sweaty shirt is also a good idea. Shoes should have their own bag, so you don’t mix shoe sole street germs with your nice clothes. I have a big zippered plastic pouch for toiletries with smaller pouches inside for bath things, hair things, and make-up.

Airline standbys have to be prepared for an overnight stay if they don’t get on a flight, but regular passengers can also experience delays or get separated temporarily from their checked baggage. (I learned this after an uncomfortable night in La Quinta, sleeping in the buff and heading out the next day without face cream or makeup.) So…

Always carry these items in your carry-on or personal item

  1. change of underwear
  2. comfortable sleepwear
  3. small sizes of indispensable toiletries, including a toothbrush and small toothpaste
  4. swimsuit (opportunities to swim can happen unexpectedly when you get the standby bump)
  5. socks, and a light jacket or wrap for the flight. Airplanes can be cold even in the hottest weather.

Limit what you pack as much as your fashion needs will allow

You may want to re-think your fashion needs in exchange for more freedom, but that’s your choice. Making a day-by-day wardrobe plan helps me make choices while I’m still at home, not on the road so I avoid hauling unnecessary articles around. Here are my personal basics:

  1. underwear for every day of the trip if possible. It doesn’t take a lot of space, and it is the one item that I want fresh every day. Laundering in a bathroom sink or a relative’s washing machine is a possibility but not something I want to spend my valued vacation time doing.
  2. comfortable walking shoes to wear on the trip and just ONE pair of presentable shoes in a go-with-everything color. Shoes take up valuable packing space. A really special occasion like a wedding might call for one more pair of shoes.
  3. sleepwear, already packed in your carry-on. A bath robe takes a lot of space, so I choose pajamas or a nightgown with a light robe decent enough for sharing coffee on leisurely mornings.
  4. bottoms (pants, skirts, shorts) in neutral colors, maximum of four. For short trips, limit of two or three. My preferred tone is black, but if you like white or tan, go for it.
  5. no-iron tops, the fewer the better. It’s okay to repeat. Four or five work for me, with multiple uses on longer trips. It gets boring, but the freedom is worth it.
  6. an easy-to-wear outfit for an unexpected dressy occasion. For men, a sports jacket that can pass for a suit.
  7. accessories, as needed
  8. make-up, bath needs, and hair tools and products. A hair style that can be air-dried is a great asset when traveling. I stopped carrying a hair dryer when hotels started to include them as standard equipment, but if you must have one, invest in the smallest and lightest one that will do the job.

Happy Travels!