1. she loved motorcycles. she got a motorcycle at 18 immediately crashed headfirst into a winnebago that stopped suddenly in front of her then drove away, leaving her unconscious in the road. two passing bikers pulled her off to the side and called 911, and she remained pals with them until she moved out of new york. once she came home with a terrible wound. she had laid her harley down in the street, gouged a fist-sized chunk of flesh out of her leg, and decided not to go to the hospital because she then hit the exhaust and the wound was cauterized shut, so she just picked the bike up and rode home.
2. dropped out of high school in tenth grade. wanted to join the navy, but had an iron problem and was disqualified from military service. all of her husbands were in the military.
3. held many jobs in her life. at one point, she sold corndogs wholesale for a living before i was born. once interviewed at a jewelry store and failed the polygraph test because she said she’d never stolen anything. when asked to clarify, she admitted that once she had stolen salt and pepper shakers from a wendys. retook the polygraph test afterward and got the job. took a third job at a toy store in the mall during the holidays for the discount so we could have toys for christmas.
4. got her ged and went to school to climb telephone poles with bellsouth. quit climbing telephone poles when her safety rig failed and she had to either fall off of the pole or slide down it. she came home that night from the hospital with the front of her body shredded from splinters, and had left most of her shirt in strips on the pole. she thought it probably looked hilarious.
5. owned a canary-yellow corvette with a BORICUA sticker on the back window when i was in middle school. wanted to get spinny wheels on it, but was informed by a friend that this would be ENTIRELY too puerto rican of her.
6. was married three times. was still married to her first husband when i was born (my dad was…not her first husband). my army hospital birth certificate lists me as samantha jo perry (first husband’s last name. he was also in the army, stationed in korea, and had cheated on her first. the marriage was over, but he was dragging ass on signing the papers), so that my father wouldn’t get in trouble since the army has rules against adultery. my first official birth certificate and social security card listed me as samantha jo gonzalez (her maiden name). i wish she had left it that way instead of giving me my father’s last name (i love my father, but his last name is terrible).
7. she was a talented artist without any training or classes whatsoever. she could sketch out a lifelike portrait of somebody in fifteen minutes, and painted beautifully. she never devoted any time to it because she had other responsibilities.
8. she didn’t read books because if she started one, she wouldn’t put it down until she finished it, and she had to work.
9. couldn’t spell the word professional, not ever. it was the funniest fucking thing in the world, because it’s like she had to write it down at least once a week for whatever cosmic joke reason and NEVER EVER COULD SPELL IT.
10. she was generous. we were in poverty while i was growing up, but once she was in a position to help others, she did it hard. willingly and without any expectation of a return on the investment. she was the same way with her time, energy, and fiery defender-of-the-wronged streak. the first time i ever heard her use the word fuck was when she made a man apologize for referring to a waitress with several slurs while he was complaining about something. i believe the exact phrase was “what the fuck is the matter with you? say you’re sorry.” my mom was about five-three on a tall day, but men were afraid of her. i don’t remember one man ever talking down to her in my entire life. not even a white man, and she was a proudly latina woman in a male-dominated field. it’s like some part of their lizard brain knew she could and would destroy them.
11. she loved the x-files, the show heroes, comic book movies, the lord of the rings, and the x-men. storm was her favorite. she was good friends with a comic shop owner named paul when we lived in miami, and we’d spend so much time there that paul started giving my brothers and i a shitload of free pogs whenever we came in. we had so many pogs. too many pogs. i inherited all of the nerd stuff, and it is to my eternal frustration that i didn’t get into any of it until after she died.
12. she wasn’t a particularly excitable person, but the first time we watched the fellowship of the rings together (she’d already seen it once before–she also didn’t rewatch movies ever), she grabbed my arm at the scene where arwen calls the horseys down the river and said “this is my favorite part.”
13. she loved horses. she wanted to retire and have a farm with horses like she did growing up.
14. she was an armwrestling master.
15. she had two tattoos, a blue unicorn on her thigh she got when she was 18 and an orchid over her chemotherapy port after she went into remission.
16. she never told me i was beautiful when i was growing up, but she never made me feel ugly, never told me i needed to lose weight, and never talked negatively about herself around me. i didn’t realize i was weird-looking until i was almost out of high school.
17. she made sure all of us could read before we started kindergarten, and fostered an environment that made us feel safe and comfortable learning and asking questions about the world.
18. the sex/drugs/drinking talk was me helping her wash the car at 13 and her saying “you know i try to raise you to make good decisions, and i’d prefer it if you wait to do adult things until you’re an adult. but you can come to me with anything and you don’t have to be afraid to talk to me or ask me if you need something. okay?” and i said okay, and we went and got ice cream. i boned down for the first time at 14 (maybe it was 13? YOU CAN FORGET YOUR FIRST TIME IF IT WAS LITERALLY THE STUPIDEST THING IN THE WORLD) and never actually took her up on her offer, but i never felt like i couldn’t.
19. i know she didn’t tolerate racism or sexism, and she was never homophobic that i know of, but my stepfather definitely was. consequently, i didn’t figure out who i was until i was until after she’d died, and i regret not knowing how she would have reacted. when i told her my best friend in the first two years of high school was a lesbian, she said “other people will think you’re a lesbian, too. are you okay with that?” and i said yes, and she nodded and said “good.” so i think she probably would have been fine with me.
20. she joked on me CONSTANTLY. she was a huge troll when i was a teenager because it was so easy to make me mad, and whenever i grouched out like a human pufferfish, she would laugh. i appreciate it now because i learned not to take myself too seriously. she was also hilarious, and i credit most of my sense of humor to her influence.
21. it genuinely makes me angry that i have so many people that i love who will never get to meet her. my friends loved her. if your mom sucks, mine would have picked up the slack.
22. it genuinely makes me angry that i’ll never be able to talk to her as an adult, and neither will my brothers, or her grandchildren. that’s fucked up.