Friday, December 14, 2007

Letters from another time

Donna OConnor VillagomezMy Mom moved to Saipan in 1976 with the intention of living here for one year (eerily paralleling my life...scary). She married my father one month after arriving and gave birth to me about two years later (not paralleling my life...thank God).

She wrote to her parents back in Massachusetts on an almost monthly basis until we left Saipan for good in April 1982. When her father died, she found out that he had kept all those letters.

She kept them safe for years and finally passed them on to me this week.


The letter in the above picture was written by my mother 12 days after I was born. The picture of her was taken right around the same time. She was 24. She's beautiful, isn't she?

The picture to the right was taken a few days before I left for Japan in 2005. I was 27. You can do the math to figure out her age.

The stories contained in the letters open quite a window into life in Saipan in the late 1970s. She talks about living on the farm, keeping animals, typhoons, her work, my father's political ambitions, campaigns, running a private law practice, the declining health of my grandfather, Rotary club, my father's involvement with the local beauty pageants (hmmmmmmm.....), a trip to the Northern islands, learning Chamorro, and of course, raising a family.

It was especially touching to read the letters written to my grandparents announcing the births of my brother Alex and me. Those two letters are treasures.

There is a lot of humor in the letters. These are a few of the gems, but there are a lot more.

This one is from the letter announcing my birth, dated October 17, 1978:
Our "farm" has been slightly reduced. We lost our pigs in the flood, my goat Bobby was slaughtered for a party a month ago, and some stray dogs finished off all but one of the ducks!"
This is taken from a letter dated May 21, 1981 (about a month before she gave birth to my brother, Alex):
Angelo is doing fine - he's full of mischief lately. This week he caught two baby chicks and drowned them while giving them a shower, and then couldn't understand why they were "broken." A day later, I caught him putting the kitten in the refrigerator. He's really into everything lately, more so than ever before. When I'm about to throw a fit, he looks up at me sweetly and says, "You mad, Mom?" and of course I just melt.
Makes me think of my broken pants story from Bangkok. This one was dated August 2, 1981 (there was a severe caterpillar outbreak in New England in 1981):
Thanks for the picture of the trees - Angelo was really concerned about those caterpillars that ate the leaves. When he saw the 2 pictures of the trees you sent last time he said, "Tell me little bit about it, Mom," so I told him about the "gaga" that ate the leaves. It really impressed him - I had to tell him the story about 20 times and he prayed for the bugs for a few nights. For some reason he sympathized with the bugs.
I guess some things never change, do they? That may be the first documented proof of my tree hugging.

Like I said, I've got a stack of letters full of little anecdotes like this.

In a box in Florida I have every single letter that my father ever wrote to me. Combined with these letters, they might make for a nice little collection one of these days...and I'm sure about three people would want to read it.


The Writers said...

This is so touching. You got your mom's looks.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

You will treasure those for a lifetime whether anyone else reads them or not.

It will be interesting to use those as a 'time capsul' of life in the Saipan 70's/80's`.

Boni said...

Your mom is beautiful, inside and out. Reading about your little boy behavior makes me less worried about Sommer's penchant for mischief. Things turn out good in the end. Thaks for sharing, I hope one day my children will have good things to say about me.

Rick MacPherson said...

probably my favorite post i've read of yours thus far...

i'm jealous you have that sort of touchstone to your past....

Votewise '07 said...

I'm moved.

I have never really known your mom, but your father and I went way back, all the way to my first couple of weeks on Saipan in July, 1974.

During Peace Corps training, one of the ways we were introduced to the community was to go out individually and stay with a local framily for the weekend. I think that was your uncle's place in CK. Anyway, we went up to the farm on Saturday to tear down an old house. In the process, I managed to step on a nail, and your dad took me to the old Dr. Torres hospital for a tetanus shot.

As the years went by, Ray and I probably disagreed as much as we agreed. Still, in later years, whenever I would meet him somewhere and we would be talking with one or more others, he would always take to recounting this story of my earliest days on Saipan.

Winter Park Fords said...

I love you! Mom

saipanboonieman said...

cool post. like someone else said, my favorite of yours so far. wish i too had a collection like that.....

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Thanks for the comments, Everybody!

Emma-sensei said..., I'm not surprised at all that you were reading at 3. :)

Your mom is brave. And the bit about the caterpillars is a classic Angelo move.

(Yeah I was inspired to comment just because this is such a nice post!)

mariann1079 said...

You're right, your mom is beautiful. And all mom are beautiful!

Those old letters she wrote are real treasures. Keep 'em :)

jeff said...

wow angelo,you're so lucky,what a gift!