According to Katie Ann Ward, she
and Francisco de Miranda Flores fell in love in the campus cafeteria of
Stanford University when Katie inadvertently spilled tomato soup all over
was trying to juggle my books, my tray and my purse at the check-out counter,
and the soup just slid off onto the tall-dark-handsome man behind me who
happened to be your father.
Franciscos version, Katie did it on purpose.
were married within a year of the cafeteria incident, despite virulent
opposition, and threats of disinheritance from both families. Only a few of their college friends attended
the wedding a civil service at San Franciscos City Hall. Afterwards, alone in their tiny rented Palo
Alto house with no furniture, they drank champagne from Stanford coffee
mugs. Katie saved the mugs, carting
them around wrapped in tissue wherever she moved, like a couple of lucky
For the first
thirteen months of their marriage, Katie and Francisco survived on college
grants and loans, and Joan Baez. Katie
dropped out of school psychology, third year when Francisco accepted a
teaching job in Mexico City while in the final stages of completing his
doctoral dissertation in bio-genetics.
They moved to Mexico.
And then I got pregnant, Katie said.
also said she was not thrilled about the suspension of her education. Perhaps the baby sensed this while sloshing
about in the womb and therefore assumed the breach position, prematurely,
nearly strangling herself with the umbilical cord in the process.
so, sometime during the course of a prolonged and difficult labor, Katie
claimed she told the doctor that she didnt really want to have a baby that
shed changed her mind. The doctor
(Hispanic male) made no attempt to soothe her.
Instead, he laughed and said she should have thought about that at
bedtime. This, Katie later averred, is
what saved her.
was so mad at that guy, she said, when she thought her daughter old enough to
handle the tale of her birth. All I
could think of was getting the labor over with so I could get up and slug the
son-of-a-bitch. I gave one huge push
and out you came.
in what everyone assumed was some kind of post-partum fit, she refused to name
her child or accept any of the names proffered by Francisco and the concerned
maternity nurses. Katie says that is why, on the birth certificate, it
says simply: Miranda Flores.
months of diaper rash went by. And,
when he decided the baby was fat enough, Francisco promptly mailed pictures to
key members of both families. Which
turned out to be a smart move. The
absence of a proper Christian name notwithstanding, the chubby visage smothered
in lace succeeded in winning them over. An assortment of presents, checks, and
invitations to visit poured in. All was
Indian grandparents sent a thick gold cross, inlaid with pearls and
rubies. For the Christening, they said.
was a touchy topic since Katie hailed from a clan of white Southern California
Baptists the most righteous (and racist) fire-and-brimstone variety. Katie had had enough of it. She didnt believe in organized religion,
she said. But to please her husbands
family and her husband (who never pressured her about religion but still considered
himself a Catholic despite his hitherto unholy matrimony), she offered to
convert. Only, she never quite got
around to it. And so, although the
couple continued to attend Mass on Sunday during the first few years of their
lives together, the question of the baby's baptism, like Katies conversion,
remained in suspended animation.
Francisco received his Ph.D. from Stanford, the couple moved to Southern
California where Francisco had been offered a full-time position in the science
department of a junior college. His
goal (having embraced the American Dream, it was important to have clearly
defined goals) was to eventually join the University of California in Berkeley.
parents lived on a small farm where they grew white potatoes and roses, much to
the embarrassment of Katie, who at Stanford had liked to pretend that shed
grown up with bay windows in San Francisco.
The farm was located about an hours drive away, near the town of
Wasco. Francisco, with his
sophisticated charm, turned out to be a big hit with his parents-in-law who had
somehow dispensed with the righteous manifesto disseminated by the rest of the
Ward clan. There were a number of weekend trips back and forth to the farm.
out of lethargy or genuine conviction, Francisco and Katie officially announced
their decision to let the child determine her religious affiliation for herself
when she was old enough.
I never, Katie Anne! exclaimed the
American grandmother when she heard this.
How on earth can you allow this poor child to grow up not knowing who
smiled her defiant smile, her perfect Colgate teeth bared like an
animals. She said, Shes my kid and Ill decide whats in her best interest. Anyway, I dont believe our religion
is who we are. Katie had a tendency to over-emphasize her
words when she was feeling threatened a habit which the grandmother would
parody for her granddaughter when she was older, when theyd become allies in
the combat against Katie.
American grandfather had rolled his eyes as though Katie were a lunatic and
jiggled the two-year-old baby seated on his lap so vigorously that she bit her
tongue and started to scream. What can
you expect, he yelled over the childs wails, of people who are so darned modernized,
they teach their kid to call em Frank and Katie. And who tell her to call her grandparents, he thundered
beet-faced, BIGMAMA AND BIGDADDY.
was true. And farcical. Mary Elizabeth
Ward was a petite and exceptionally pretty brunette; Forest Ward, though tall,
was as thin as a rail. Francisco had an
unusual sense of humor, and these were the names he was coaching the baby to
use. Katie went along for the ride.
the baby was one year old, the Indian grandmother wrote to remind the renegade
parents of their unfulfilled obligation to the Roman Catholic Church. Until you both receive the Holy Sacrament
of Marriage and baptize your child, she warned, you will both be pagans in
the eyes of the Lord.
and Katie laughed and called the child their Little Pagan. The name stuck.
awhile, they kept up their Sunday Mass attendance Katie mainly because she
knew it would infuriate the Wards, Francisco because he suffered frequent bouts
of acute nostalgia and it reminded him of home.
Pagan was four, Francisco was offered a research and teaching position at the
University of California in Berkeley.
Bigmama and Bigdaddy drove up from Wasco to help pack. Katie packed the Stanford coffee mugs
last. She kissed them for luck before
wrapping them in purple tissue paper.
moved to Berkeley.
This is the story according to Katie.