Valgame Dios! my mother would say when she was perplexed about something. Translated it means, “Good God!” Her tone of voice usually indicated what kind of situation.
If she could see us now, Berta would have many reasons to utter in concern, “Valgame Dios!”
My mother was passionate about politics. All her family was, and she passed it down. A voting Democrat all her life, though she crossed over to vote for Reagan in ’80.
Born on April 2 in 1929, she was part of the Greatest Generation: living through the Great Depression, World War Two, and into these modern times. In 1995, she was traveling home from Austin when a car accident left her paralyzed.
Like many of her generation, she regarded her dignity, highly, and always maintained it. My Dad was the same way; both were proud and honorable.
I never thought my family particularly religious, though for a while we went to church and catechism weekly. Although never confirmed, I still went along with the protocol of its teachings, out of habit, I guess.
Nowadays, I'm closer to being a Buddhist or guru follower, but I'm neither. I do my own thing and try my best to get closer to God.
Family friend, Carlos Rivera, recruited my mom to teach Spanish at Rusk Elementary for a couple of years when my sister, Yoya, was in 2nd grade. By all accounts, my mom spoke beautiful Spanish, due In large part to the great education she received at Bowie High.
Another phrase she used was me vale la pena, which means “I hope it's worth the effort”; “No vale la pena is it's not worth it.”
“La pena” means pain, one way or another. Such as in, “¡Que pena!” or “what a pain or great embarrassment.”
My mom had many names besides Berta. There was Bertha, Birdie (my Aunt Evangelina’s doing) Bertita, Betita and Burta (by people who cannot roll an R). Whenever she saw somebody doing something dumb the word Tarugo spewed from her mouth.
Never a fan of profanity, she opined, “That’s what education is for. You can’t go off to some fancy college and come back speaking like a hood.” She found ways around cursing.
Though on occasion, like when one April Fool’s Day my little sister Cristy broke the news of her pregnancy to my mom and it became a day long saga. Which led to bigger and more complex hoaxes that my mom fell for every year.
At the end of the pregnancy trick the best she mustered was probably to call my sister a Sangrona. The literal translation is bloody, but it generally means somebody who is a nuisance, annoyance or a pain in the neck, which were insinuations more palatable for my mother.