This story is about a most special woman. There are so many adjectives to describe my mother that I am afraid I might forget some. What is a mother? Is she “Love?” Is she “Caring?” Is she “Generous?” Is she “Discipline”? Is she a “Teacher?” Is she “Warm and Cuddling?” Is she a “Treasure of Family History?” Is she “Untiring?” Is she “Watchful?” Is she “Humble?” Is she the “Greatest Cook?” Is she the “Best Nurse?” Is she the “Most Accommodating Person?” Is she the “Best Quilter?” Is she the “Best Listener?” Is she “Hopeful?” Is she a “Griever?” Is she “Resourceful?”
This is my mother, Fabiola Santistevan Valdez, born on June 16, 1926, in Costilla, New Mexico. She is the oldest child of Juan de los Reyes Santistevan and Maria Rebeca de los Dolores Barela. Born and raised during the Depression, by a family of modest means, she is one of the most loving, caring and resourceful persons I know. She learned how to make the most with what she had, whether it was food, clothes, etc. Like most families trying to survive the Depression, she has her own memories. Stories include a worn-out winter coat. Rather than throwing away the coat, she had to turn it inside out and re-stitch it, in order to have a coat for the upcoming winter, since the family could not afford a new one.
This picture was taken in 1944, her senior year at Costilla High School, Costilla, New Mexico.
Being the oldest of six children - and a girl, she helped her parents with her siblings, house, and farm work. Some stories include helping her father with field work, the animals, milking the cows, and retrieving water by pail from the community cistern. In addition, helping her mother with her siblings, and cooking. In the 1930’s, her mother worked as a cook at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Costilla, and her father herded sheep in Wyoming, during the late fall and winter seasons. Mom would take charge of the necessary duties to assist her mother with chores.
Fabiola married my father, Fermin P. Valdez on July 23, 1945, in Costilla, New Mexico. Their wedding picture shows a happy and young couple, who were very much in love. Dad wore a black suit with a white boutonniere, and mother, a lacey-white wedding dress. How young they looked! They were to start a family as WWII had ended.
Her father, my grandfather, once told me it was hard for him to attend her wedding. He was sad to see his oldest, his right-hand girl who had helped him with so much farm work during the Depression, get married. Yet, he was happy for her, knowing that she was going to be in the same community. Mom was deeply devoted to her father throughout his lifetime. After grandma passed away in 1975, she asked grandpa to move in with her and dad, which he did for a time.
Mom and dad had seven children, five boys and two girls, of which I am the oldest. They have 13 grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.
This picture is of my dad, Fermin and my mom, Fabiola. It was taken around 1991.
Like her mother, mom is a devout Catholic. She attends mass, never missing on Sundays or holy days, as well as daily. Every day she says her morning prayers in the privacy of her prayer/sewing room. Mom is respected in her community, and is often asked to say the Rosary at Sacred Heart Church in Avondale, Colorado. She continues to assist the ladies with church related activities such as cleaning, setting up for special occasions, and church festivals. Mom is a resource on the lives of saints, and can identify the saints and their prayers.
Like grandma Becky, mom is a wonderful cook. She prides herself in planning the family get-togethers so that they are special occasions for everyone. We most often have Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas dinners at her house. Grandma Becky continues to be around us, as mom uses her recipes. All of mom’s sisters are good cooks, but I have to say that mom bakes the best bread and tortillas out of all of them. The smell of fresh baked bread at mom’s kitchen is a mouth-watering experience, especially when you break open a biscuit and butter it! Wow! Her hot and toasty tortillas (right out of the skillet), with butter also makes one’s mouth want to water.
I often wonder, and ask her, “How did you and dad manage to raise seven kids in the fifties, sixties and seventies?” Dad was an "Ammunition Handler" at the Pueblo Army Depot and mom was a stay-at-home mom until 1974, when she became a cook at Avondale Elementary School, and later, a Teacher’s Aide at various District 70 elementary schools. To do this, they pulled all of their resources together to survive. But I know it was LOVE for each other, and for their children, that motivated them to keep their focus.
For me, my elementary school memories of my mother are special. She was a room-mother, and she sewed costumes for several school plays. During the days of “threatened nuclear war,” she was a “civil patrol mother.” These mothers would assist the classroom teachers with “civil air defense” drills. Mom also, was also a religion teacher for many years. She did this for each one of us, all while raising kids. How?
And when we came down with measles, chicken pox, the flu, or something else, who would stay up with the sick and hold us? None other than our mother! She was right there! What a nurse! She would apply home remedies, learned from her mother and grandmother. When, Rick, the fifth child died unexpectedly in a car accident in July of 1997, mom took it especially hard. She still does. Loosing a child is never easy for a parent. Seeing mom at his funeral with all of her siblings around, comforting one another, was a moving scene. During that same year, her father died in January, and a favorite brother-in-law died in February. And, when her companion, lover and husband died in 2000, she grieved again. At that time, I wondered how much can this kind, caring, and giving woman take? She often says it is our faith that keeps us going, and we must try to make this a better world. That is something she has instilled in each of us.