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KATIE 

katie

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 Francisco's shoes. 

            I 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.

            In Franciscos version, Katie did it on purpose.

            They 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 talismans.

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.

            Katie 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.

            And 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.

            I 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.

            Later, 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.

            Several 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 forgiven.

            The Indian grandparents sent a thick gold cross, inlaid with pearls and rubies.  For the Christening, they said.

            This 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.

            After 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.

            Katies 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.

            Whether 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.

            Well, 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 she is?

            Katie 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.

            The 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.

            It 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.

            When 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.

            Francisco and Katie laughed and called the child their Little Pagan.  The name stuck.

            For 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. 

            When 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.

            They moved to Berkeley.

            This is the story according to Katie.