Bob’s Mom – The Life The Love The Stories

It’s that time of year again.

This Sunday, we celebrate the first and longest lasting love of our lives. The woman who gave you life, protected you, encouraged you, unconditionally loved you, and even wiped your butt.

From the day you were born and 9 months previous to even that, she is the one force who gives and forgives, teaches and comforts, confronts and cares and metes out justice with a wooden spoon or a denial of dessert. …and regardless of your relationship with her, in the end, she is alive within you always, because she is your Mother ….

Pop Mom and Me

As most adopted children can tell you, one of the first things you remember being told is how you were chosen to be part of your adopted family, not a random act of passion borne to fruition by parents who sometimes weren’t really trying to make a baby. Any time this information was imparted on an adopted child, it was meant to soothe and/or dispel any doubts the child had of being loved or being perceived as an ‘outsider’.

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Truth be told, parents who adopt have already let you know how much they want and love you by simply taking you in to their homes and lives. My dad wanted a son but, more than anything, wanted his wife to be happy. My mom had had eight still-born children when they finally decided to adopt. My almost older brothers and sisters, all laid to rest, side by side, where my mother and father are interred, constitute a family that was not to be, but my mom spent her life being a mother to so many others, she made sure all the love she had to give did not go un-given. My mom was born to be a Mom…and she proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt throughout her entire life.

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Mom (2)Mercedes Ormi Walters, was born in Arkansas City, Kansas on June 30th 1919. Half Cree, half English, she somehow found herself on the west coast by the time she was 12, living in Los Angeles with the Brumbaugh  family, and at one point, spending weeks in the hospital after falling asleep in MacArthur Park in the blistering Southern California sun. She eventually ended up in Stockton, California with two sets of parents; Jim and Anne Brumbaugh, and Albert and Kate Walters, who both adored her, but never, to my knowledge, socialized or spent any time with her together. We always visited the two sets of parents separately on holidays and birthdays.

She eventually met my dad, who had moved to Stockton from Genoa, Italy and had started a grocery business with his brothers, and they married sometime in the ‘30s, an almost 20 year difference in their ages, but in love enough that their marriage lasted until both were gone. Come to think of it, there were no divorces for any of the 4 Segarini brothers.

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GE DIGITAL CAMERAI was born on August 28th, but my mother sent me a birthday card every February 26th as well. That’s the day they brought me home, six months after I was born. It was never a secret that I was adopted, and armed with my mother’s “you’re here by choice, not by chance”, mantra, whatever stigma attached to being adopted that could be turned into insults by schoolyard bullies never penetrated. I knew how much I belonged with my family.

I don’t think I have ever known anyone who loved kids more than my mother. The number of people who grew up in Stockton who called my mom ‘mom’, or ‘Aunt Merce” are legion. My friends were always welcome in her home. Even after I moved out, they would visit her far more often than they visited me, and nothing could have made her happier. Our home was a safe haven for anyone who needed a place to be…or a plate of pasta.

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Some Mom Stories

The Sleepover…

Bob 1957I was 12. My friends and I decided to have a sleepover one night, and my mother suggested we ‘camp out’ in the back yard. So it was that 5 12 year old guys found themselves pitching sleeping bags in the yard and looking for mischief to get into. It was a perfect summer evening and someone (I don’t recall who) suggested we steal some beer from their dad’s garage, or swipe a jug of home-made wine out from under my dad’s wash basin in OUR garage. My mother overhears this and makes a further suggestion. She tells us to sit tight and retreats into the house to make some phone calls. I figure we’re busted and she’s calling everybody’s parents. I was half right.

She comes back and explains to us that if we tell her what we want to drink, she will go to the liquor store and buy us the booze. She has spoken to everybody’s mothers and they have agreed to this as long as we adhere to one rule.

“You will not leave this yard” my mother says as sternly as possible.

“Yes, Mrs. Segarini” my stalwart friends answer in unison.

So, armed with a list that includes beer, sloe gin, rum, and whisky, off to the liquor store goes my mother. She returns with pints of this and cans of that, and we are the happiest bunch of 12 year olds you could possibly imagine. We proceed to drink everything she has given us. By midnight, no one is awake.

There is a fly buzzing in my ear. I open one eye. It is incredibly bright. I open my other eye. It makes a noise like a drawbridge being raised. Slowly, my eyes focus on the scene before me. There is a pair of pants in the little tree in the middle of the back yard. One of the guys is asleep (or passed out) under the tree with his sleeping bag on his head, another is stretched out in my mother’s herb garden, and still another is flat on his back with a cat asleep on his chest. I sit up. I look around. There are pools of vomit everywhere. The door off the patio into the garage slams shut, causing an explosion in my head, then, my mother’s voice.

My Mom 2013Rise and shine, sleepyheads!” she chirps, sounding like she is screaming at the top of her lungs. Bodies stir. There is groaning. “Who’s ready for a big breakfast?” Again, she sounds like she’s shouting. More groans. Mom takes the wooden spoon in her hand and uses it as a drumstick against the metal bowl in her other hand. It sounds like a fire truck is about to run us over. “Breakfast is served!” The thought of food reaches everyone’s brain. Stomachs begin to react. “Pancakes with butter and syrup, eggs, and lots of hot, greasy bacon!” followed by what can only be described as maniacal laughter, “Can you smell that bacon?” (This picture of my Mom beautifully restored by Brian Goguen)

That was it.

The retching starts anew, my friends are losing what’s left in their stomachs all over the yard, and even the cat gets sprayed as it tries desperately to jump out of the way. Years later, it dawned on me…my mother…is a genius.

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The Long Walk…

I was 15. Long story short, my Uncle Al makes a bet with me that I can’t walk from San Jose to Santa Monica without giving up or taking a train/bus at some point. Challenge accepted. With a friend, and armed with papers from the Stockton Police Department, California Highway Patrol, our parents, an emergency credit card, a wack of cash, sleeping bags and knapsacks full of clothes and survival gear (!), we embark on this trip down Highway 101 which is to culminate in my mom driving down to meet us and a few days in Disneyland.

Under the OverIn the two weeks it took, we slept under overpasses, stayed in hotels twice because of bad weather, slept in a park in San Luis Obispo, a police squad car in Santa Barbara, and generally had a great time. We would show our letters to the authorities when we needed their help (Obispo and Santa Barbara) and all were accommodating, even getting us press along the way. Everything was fine until we reached our destination, Santa Monica. We stored our gear in lockers at the Santa Monica Bus Depot and went to a movie and out to dinner to celebrate. Figuring we’d spend the night in a hotel and call my mom in the morning, we went back to the Bus Depot to collect our stuff only to find the building locked up and no one there. Fine. I’ll just call the authorities, and we’ll sleep wherever they put us and collect our gear in the morning. I call the authorities, tell them our situation, and there’s a squad car at the phone booth before I hang up. The next thing we know, we’re standing in front of a detective who doesn’t believe a word of what I’m telling him, and unable to provide our papers which are locked up in the Bus Depot, find ourselves being put up for the night in separate jail cells. My mom was there exactly 8 hours later…and considering Stockton was about an 8 hour trip back then, she must have driven like the devil.

The one thing I will NEVER forget about our overnight stay in jail was the breakfast. Hot buttered and jammed toast, thick, delicious, perfectly cooked Detectivebacon, scrambled eggs with scallions, 3 maple syrup-ed pancakes, and a perfect cup of coffee.

The other thing I will never forget was watching my mother tear this detective a new one, our papers sitting in front of him from the knapsacks the police retrieved from the bus depot, and the humiliation dripping off his brow when he apologized to us for not believing us. Mom 1 – Santa Monica Police Department 0.

Mom Provides Irrefutable Proof…

The first band I actually put together was called the Family Tree. We were determined to play our own music, (Mike (Durr) and I both wrote), plus Family Treesome classic rock and roll like Little Richard’s Rip It Up, and some British Invasion goodies I would find on imports I would buy atLewin’s, an awesome record shop on Hollywood Blvd. in L.A that was worth the 350 mile trip, if only to feel the slick, glossy, flimsy LP covers that England favoured over our sturdy, but dull, cardboard equivalent. It was because of Lewin’s, that people in the Central Valley towns we played thought I had writtenDrive My Car, If I Needed Someone, and Nowhere Man, because those songs weren’t released in the U.S until Yesterday and Today, and we learned them from the imported Rubber Soul, and Revolver LP’s months earlier.

In order to accomplish this dream of playing great original and cutting edge cover tunes, we had to rehearse, and rehearse a lot.

We did just that.

4 East MontereyIn my mom and dad’s house.

We would set up after dinner and rehearse until 10 pm almost every night. My mother would make dinner for my dad, my aunt Della, herself, and usually the whole band, and then we would set up and play. Vann’s drums were in Della’s bedroom, the guitar and bass amps in the dining room, and the mics, and a little P.A were in the living room.

The first time we did this, we had been playing for about an hour when, at the end of one of the songs, we heard knocking at the front door accompanied by someone constantly ringing the doorbell. My mom came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron and made a beeline to the door. Looking over her shoulder, we saw two policemen standing on the porch.

“Mrs. Segarini?”, said one of the cops, “May we come in?”

“No”, said my mom, sounding stern and a bit annoyed. “What do you want?”

“Well, we’ve had a noise complaint from one of your neighbors”.

Kragen. Mr. Kragen from next door. Mr. Kragen, whom I was sure was an ex-Nazi, hiding in Stockton since the end of WWII. This man had kept every ball that ever accidentally got tossed into his yard. He would come out and turn the hose on you if you hopped the fence to retrieve them. By now, he must have had enough footballs, baseballs, and whiffle balls to start a rec centre. He was, up until this moment, just a cranky old buzzard that hated kids. Now…now he was Satan.

It was around 9 pm when this happened, and my mother pointed out that we could play music until 11 pm if we wanted to. That was the law. The police said they were sorry, but getting a complaint meant we would have to stop playing.

“They aren’t that loud”, said my mother through the screen door. The cops shuffled their feet.

barcalounger“Well, your neighbor says he can hear them in his house, so…”, The cop began. My mother cut him off.

“I can prove they are not that loud, officer”, she said, unlocking the screen door.

The two cops stepped into the living room, and my mom pointed to the corner.

There, next to the P.A, was my dad in his Barcalounger.

Sound asleep.

We played until 10 that night, and every night thereafter. They never came back.

My mom always had my back. Through thick and thin, she was there for me and my friends no matter what. She loved her kids. All of us.

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mom-croppedOver 30 years ago, on October 17th, 1989, I was in California with my (at the time) wife and our daughter, caring for my mother, who had recently been at death’s door, and who now spent most of her time in a 24 hr. Care Facility, but was usually home for weekends and whenever else she wanted to be.

She wanted to be home for the World Series…which, for the first time ever, was being played between 2 teams who were both from the Bay Area; the Oakland As, and the San Francisco Giants.

Game 3 was just  getting underway at Candlestick Park. It was 5:04, Tuesday, October 17th, 1989.

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The Calm Before the Storm

I was sitting in the breakfast nook of my mother’s house at 4 East Monterey Avenue in Stockton, California, waiting for Game Three of the ‘Battle of the Bay’ World Series to start.

cheryl-and-amyb-and-wCheryl and Amy were out in the family Chevrolet EuroSport picking up dinner from Webb’s, Del Taco, and Jack in the Box, and my mother and her companion ‘Little Joe’ Blanco, were in the living room in front of the big 27 in. Zenith waiting for the game too, with me opting for the little 19 inch set in the breakfast nook, sitting at the kitchen table smoking Camel Lights, drinking Jack and Jolt, and occasionally looking out the window at the corner of Monterey Avenue and Center Street. It was a beautiful autumn day in Stockton….

…and it was 5:04 pm.

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Location, Location, Location….

What happened, happened in seconds, but felt like forever. Reading the account of what happened here is going to take much longer than the actual event. …and no matter how detailed my description, an earthquake must literally be experienced before you can fully appreciate just how insignificant and helpless they make you feel.

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Stockton City Limits 99 and 50

Stockton is 83 miles due-east of San Francisco, and another hour or so northeast of the Santa Cruz Mountains where the epicentre of this dance was located. Even at that distance, the effects were eerily up-close and personal.

I remember a statistic one of my more evil teachers unspooled in front of his wide-eyed class one afternoon in Junior High. To whit; If there were ever an 8+ quake on the San Andreas just west of San Francisco, and it, in turn, triggered the Hayward Fault (which runs directly under the San Francisco Bay between The City and Oakland/Berkeley), chances were good that San Francisco would sink beneath the Pacific, a modern day Atlantis.

anigif_longform-original-951-1432935592-21

In so doing, the resulting rush of Pacific Ocean into (and over) SF, would travel east, continue over the East Bay, Past the small farm towns of the Livermore Valley, and climb over the smallish Altamont Mountain Range and reach Stockton in a little more than 20 minutes…which would be just enough time to race up Highways 12, 88, and 40 into the Sierra Nevada foothills, hopefully high enough to escape a wave of water containing flotsam, jetsam, and who-knows how much debris from its destructive, all consuming trip eastward.

Kept me awake for years after hearing that. Curse you, vivid imagination…and you too, Mr Ortiz. What a dick.

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The House Was Rockin’ and My Mom Was Rollin’….

02-the-house-on-monterey-front

This all happened in 15 to 30 seconds…all of it.

The television went from a sports caster yammering about the historic aspects of this World Series, to a loud, fuzzy electronic wail accompanied by a lot of snow and visual chop. Would the next voice I heard begin, “PEOPLE OF EARTH…”? All of a sudden, I found myself with a queasy stomach. I felt nauseous. I was only on my 2nd drink, hadn’t smoked an entire carton of Camels, had yet to have dinner, (so food poisoning was out), and I didn’t have a cold, flu bug, or anything else.

Then I looked up.

The faux Tiffany overhead lamp looked weird.

It was weird.

Somehow, the big, hanging, stained glass shade was laying across the ceiling to the left of where it usually hung.

11-the-house-on-monterey-side

Noticing the lamp, I simultaneously heard an odd gurgling, a sound not unlike the sound of the bubbles rising to the surface when you’re farting in the bathtub.

The water cooler sitting on the floor next to me that dispensed both hot and cold water, looked as weird as the lampshade above my head.

All the water in the clear plastic water bottle on top of the cooler was pressed up against the left side of the bottle.

That’s odd, I thought. That shouldn’t be happening

Looking back up at the lampshade and then quickly back down at the water cooler confirmed my puzzlement.

“How very strange”, I said to no one, beginning to wonder if this was a fabled acid flashback from my Strawberry Double Dome days come to fuck me up.

Then I looked out the windows that made up the corner of the little breakfast nook and looked out at the corner of Monterey Avenue and Center Street.

Hmmmm….

4fb60cd200c13b9efbe6e62afa4c6af2Now that IS weird, I thought, my right eyebrow raised in Spockian curiosity, again speaking to no one, I managed a “Fascinating, Captain”, and then thought, Maybe I fell asleep here at the table waiting for this stupid game to start.

What caused the Spock Eyebrow Raise (or “S.E.R.”) was this….

All the stop signs, trees, power poles, and street signs, were laying on their sides.

Not broken. Not knocked over. Not anythinged.

Then, as I watched, my other eyebrow struggling to join its twin in the upraised Spock position while my jaw dropped toward the table in disbelief, all the signs, poles, and trees righted themselves and headed in the other direction.

Later I found out they hadn’t moved…

…the ground had moved.

Holy Crow and Jumping Fishbulbs, Batman!

…and then I heard a scream.

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mv5bmtm0odu5nde4nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwote3mzyxoa-_v1_uy1200_cr15106301200_al_My mother’s companion, a sweet little Portuguese man named Joe, was in the living room with my mom, also waiting for Game three to start. Joe weighed all of 85 pounds, and dressed like ’50s era Jimmy Olsen, replete with brown checkered suit coats, sweater vests, and bow ties. Every now and then mom would invite him over and we’d go pick him up and they would have a sleep over. Joe must have been in his mid to late ’80s, was a sweet man who treated my mom like a Queen, and my Mom, rudderless since my Dad passed away in ’78, adored him. We all did. The two of them always had a good time together, and we counted the sleepovers as successful as long as Joe didn’t wet the bed.

Maybe it’s all old people (hopefully, I will find out soon enough) but Joe and my mom peed themselves a lot. Mostly when they laughed.

And they laughed a lot.

But that wasn’t laughter I heard. That was a scream, and as I bolted out of my chair and ran shakily toward the living room (it was like running on a speeding train going around a curve) the scream turned into a series of Keanu Reeves-like WHOA’s.

“whoa…Whoa…WHOA!”

It was my Mom.

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Little Joe was desperately trying to get off the couch to help her, but 85 pounds of brave, but frightened, Portuguese Companion is no match for an earthquake that could crush a freeway.

I steadied myself against the arch that separated the dining room from the living room and tried to figure out what was wrong. Was my  mom in danger? Had something fallen off the walls and hit her? Had she been thrown out of her wheelchair?

wheelchair_mobility_hireFuck.

Wheelchair.

I figured it out when she passed in front of me on her way toward the big 27 inch Zenith, the decorative fireplace curtain dragging behind her where it had attached itself to her wheelchair when she had rolled into the fireplace.

I had forgotten to set the brakes on her chair when I had rolled her into the living room to watch the game.

I skidded into the living room during her second round trip between the TV and the fireplace.

She wasn’t “whoaing” anymore.

Now she was laughing.

…and Joe was laughing…

…and then…

I was laughing.

Thank God for Depends.

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Cheryl and Amy returned to the house, none the worse for wear. They thought they had had a flat tire until they saw the big plate glass windows at Webb’s bending and rippling, and threatening to break, which they didn’t.

webbs-deli

Things went back to normal, the subject of ongoing conversation until the devastation in the Bay Area was cleaned up, and then repaired. The Loma Prieta Earthquake got its own “I Survived…” T Shirt, and we all bought one, and as Californian’s do…we all had one more story to tell, one more earthquake under our belts, and one more reason to lie awake at night, wondering when the inevitable Big One was going to finally happen.

3302710008_7432924c1a

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My mom and Little Joe, like my Dad, have been gone for a long time now, and thinking about them is always like a visit.

Mom and DadWhen it comes to my mom, I swear she lives and breathes as much as she ever did. I hear her voice, I get her advice, and I can hear her laughter just retelling this story. It’s not the memory of love and devotion you got and felt from a parent that brings them back to you when they are gone. It’s not the sadness that envelopes you when you realize they aren’t there to hug you, or you, them, to tell them you love them, to just see them asleep in their favourite chair (Hi dad), or cooking in the kitchen (Love ya, mom). All of those things stay with you forever, and will hopefully be passed on to your children along with their memories of you.

All of those things come with their passing, and your willingness and desire to keep them alive inside of you.

But truth be told, it’s when you tell the stories, when your eyes sparkle and your face lights up, and you realize the people who are listening to the stories can see them too, can hear them, can love them like you do…those are the moments when they truly, honestly, live.

Mom and I 464 E. Ellis 1949-1950

It’s the stories. The snake down the front of the swimsuit in Yosemite, the time sugar was accidently used instead of flour to thicken the turkey gravy, moving someone at the dinner table to the porch because they asked for ketchup to put on her perfectly prepared prime rib, THOSE are the things that bring them to you so vividly, they might as well be in the next room. And no matter how bad, how embarrassing, how absolutely horribly dumb …the laughter always came.

When something makes me laugh so hard that I pee my pants, I will have arrived.

Hmmm..I may have already arrived, come to think of it.

…and I hope none of you ever have to go through even the tiniest of earthquakes…but if you do, I hope someone is there who can make you laugh.

And don’t forget to set your brakes….

mom-and-lion-1

Mercedes Ormi Segarini June 30th 1919 – August 18th 1997

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Segarini’s regular columns appear like the bill after an expensive dinner in a 5 star restaurant but just before you put the dead cockroach you brought with you into the remains of your creme brulee and start screaming for the manager

Please leave any comments in the “Reply” section below

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

11 Responses to “Bob’s Mom – The Life The Love The Stories”

  1. Eric Boardman Says:

    Your mother sounds like a gem. Did she think “I Hardly Know Her Name” was a perfect single–as I do?

  2. agirlwithacameratpt Says:

    You can repeat those stories about your mom a hundred times and every time they make me laugh 😂 I would loved to have met your mom. I have to concur, she really was a gem. – Z

  3. patti blodgett Says:

    Hi Bobby, have never ever seen this post from you but I did know your mother and she was one of this nicest people ever and I do know how much she loved you and your father as well. We have lost touch but you and your family were a big part of my childhood. Remember Betty Hackett. I saw Lyle Brockney last week. My daughter, Marirose and I took lunch to my sister, Christine. Christine lives in my mother’s home now. We had a picnic on the lawn and social distancing, and Lyle came along with his wife, Debbie and stopped and said that we were too close, I looked up and there was our Lyle and he looks the same and he is great. His mother, Esther is still alive at 100 and lives alone here in Lodi. We sure had a wonderful childhood. Did you know that Pam Wolters passed away? Do not know why or anything but there you go. If you are ever in Stockton stop by my sisters. Still in touch with a lot of our friends. Anyway loved your mom and loved reading your story. Take care, Patti Nordwick Blodgett.

    • Oh, Patti! So sorry to hear about Pam. My condolences to you, her family and friends.
      It’s funny, but thinking of you and everyone in our little neighbourhood now, Castle to Alpine, Pacific to El Dorado, Acacia, Monterey, Mariposa, Mendicino, and Sonoma.
      I still see us all as little kids. I remember you were so tiny, a little pixie with blonde hair. Pam and Carroll Wolters, Carl Schweringer (or was it Slessinger), Cheryl Ramos, Tina, Donna Ratto, Barbara Kleppinger, Gary Smalley, Whitey, Evette Colourus (sp?), George Biagi, Susan Berry, Richard Aunger, Ronnie Long, Rene Burosseau (sp?) …no one locked their doors, and Norman Rockwell could not have painted a better childhood. Did I leave anyone out? Patti, if you have any pictures of us kids and/or the neighbourhood, I would love to see them. Love to you and your family and loved ones, and to everyone who lived in that wonderful neighbourhood. Please …Be Well and Stay Safe. …and stay in touch.

  4. Kathy Steele Says:

    Thank you Bob. I grew up in Stockton, and always shopped at Segarini’s on Hammer Ln. I actually didn’t shop, but sat and read the comic books while my Mom shopped. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Our memories are who we are. I don’t think I ever met you. I went to Lincoln. But I LOVE your stories. It takes me right back to being a ten year old kid again. Please continue to write them.
    I didn’t think I’d live to see what’s going on today. It makes our childhood memories so much more BEAUTIFUL.
    Stay safe my friend.

    • Thank you for your kind words. We were all blessed with an amazing childhood, in an amazing place, at an amazing time. Be well and stay safe.

  5. Ronnie Longe Says:

    Hey Bobby, it’s Ronnie Longe, that was a great story!! You could of not written a better one! It was perfect. I loved your mom !! She always treated me like one of her boys. My mom Diva and your mom we’re so close. Mom loved your mom. I wish we could have hung out more!! I remember times like when we would go across the street and check out Susan Berry and her friends!! Man was she HOT. Anyway some fun times a hundred years ago!!! Please text me so we can talk about old times and what’s going on with you!! Ron

  6. Norah E Bennington Says:

    Thank you so much for this delightful memoir. I grew up in Stockton and love to hear about the people who made it so vibrant. You are an excellent writer!

    • Norah, thank you for the kind words. Stockton was an amazing place to grow up when I was there. When small town America was safe, close-knit, and ripe with opportunity and adventure.

  7. Vann Slatter Says:

    Bob, as you know your Mom was one of the kindest, funniest Moms who put up with all our Rn’R hijinks and would just laugh it off. She was the best! Miss her and on Mother’s Day she is always included in my memories equal to my own Mother.

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