Date(s) - 09/11/2014
Interview at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
7. An excerpt from The Lyre and the Lambs
Valerie had fallen deeply in love with Ander Ibbara, a young attorney she met when I deeded my Uncle Iban’s house in Bakersfield to her. Valerie and Andy’s sister, Pilar, cooked up a plan to turn the house into a Basque Cultural Center, and that’s when Valerie got her first taste of organizing and managing something. She served on the Board of the Center, commuting back and forth between Palo Alto and Bakersfield. That’s where Andy, the community’s rising young politico, weekend cowboy and most eligible bachelor, opened his arms to her. But Valerie and Andy could not come to terms with where to live. Of course, it goes deeper than that. Where to live is really not as difficult as how to live. Andy was firmly planted in the Central Valley. He had a thriving law practice to manage and a horse ranch to play with. Valerie was a Bay Area girl with a PhD in Spanish Literature, a publisher, a university teaching contract, and property of her own to play with. Valerie let Andy go. Freedom to live the life she chose seemed like a good trade-off until the day she got word that Andy had married someone else.
My saddest day was when Valerie celebrated her thirtieth birthday curled up in a fetal position on my bed in the Carmel duplex, Puffy wedged up under her arm. After Gibert finished his hospital residency at the San Francisco Medical Center, he promptly asked Valerie to be his wife.
“Mom, it would have been perfect if I could have said yes,” Valerie sobbed and gulped air, trying to fit her words in between hiccups.
“Why couldn’t you say yes?” I knew why, but I let her tell me.
“We both could have had a career.” She calmed down, sat up on the bed, and started down her list. “He loved the property in Los Altos. We could have lived there.”
I lowered my chin, raised my eyes to look at her, and waited.
“But he cheated on me!”
There it was. What I was expecting.
“And, I want children and he doesn’t. Not American children.”
Okay, that one I wasn’t expecting. I’d given up on ever having grandchildren. I was very proud of Dr. Valerie Carter, Professor Valerie Carter, and novelist Valerie Moraga Carter. I was amused by Valerie the land baron and neighborhood irritant, but the day Valerie gave her engagement ring back to Andy, I put away my dreams of ever hearing a child call my child Mommy.
That moment was not the time to suggest to Valerie that she couldn’t have it all. She understood that she was up against a clock that can’t be adjusted to fit ambitious agendas. She’d made her choices and now the pain of emptiness overwhelmed her.
“Oh baby.” I sat down on the bed and gathered her in my arms and we cried together.