Ancestors, Level 1, My Parents

To explain: I’ve just enjoyed a new contact with a young man in Miami about my image of the Aztec deity Xochipilli, who appears (above) on the masthead of my webpages and blogs. As the god of homosexuals (and a whole lot more), the Prince of Flowers has long been my patron. Unfortunately, he sits down by the end of the alphabet (with the other x’s), and it’ll be a couple years till I get around to doing his icon for my coloring book YE GODS!

My new friend Walter identifies as a pagan and practitioner of the Unnamed Path, which sounds quite like mine, though I didn’t think to name my path. We’re both on the beautiful paths (as the Navajo would say, walking in beauty) for men who love men. You can find Walter on his splendid path at http://sacredbonfire.com.  Meanwhile, as a headline on his emails, he includes, “The ancestors are speaking. Are you listening?”

Struck by that profound question, I realized that for a long time that I’ve been dancing around the urge to blog about my ancestors. So far I haven’t written much about them, except in that biography: “Ms Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother.” I was too focused on my own terribly fascinating self to pay any attention to the sources of my miraculous being.

Understandably, in researching the biography, I learned a great deal about my parents, as well as about my roots in the generations before them. In that writing, I organized the boxes of old family photographs and in the process quickly became an expert photo-restorer. The art is very like painting, just as aesthetically fulfilling, and playing with pixels to reconstruct an ancestor’s face creates intense emotional connections with the subject, let me tell you. Suffice it to say, I now have plenty photo-paintings to illustrate blogs about several levels of my ancestry.

Naturally, we’ll start at level 1 with my parents, who were people I’d never really known before that research and restoration of their images. I was simply a kid, and they were folks who took care of me. There was no discussion of who they were then or in their pasts, and the oblivious child never even wondered, too busy wondering who I was.

My mother, Yvonne Marie Trinité, was born on January 18, 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland. I discovered that she was quite a fashionable young woman in the thirties who led a nicely sociable life with a number of boyfriends. When she was nineteen, in 1938, a beau took her boating on the Chesapeake and snapped a tiny shot of a virtual goddess of the sea. Retrieving it from a miniature print (1 sq. in) in a foggy blur, I’ve put it up on my refrigerator where I can thank her every morning for solving my life.

Yvonne by the sea, 1938

Meanwhile, over in Wisconsin my future father, Raymond John Balthazor, was born on January 30, 1916 in the village of Bear Creek, and the family soon moved to the big city of Fond du Lac. In school he came down with scarlet fever, an often fatal disease from which he recovered—but with a damaged heart. In 1939, after taking courses at a business college, Ray landed a job with Social Security in Baltimore and had a (retouched) portrait taken for the announcement in the Fond du Lac newspaper. He was a good-looking young man of twenty-three.

Ray, 1939

That’s why Ray and Yvonne met, but further details of their romance are unavailable. They were married on Wednesday, June 19, 1940, both dressed up in the high style of the period:

Wedding of Yvonne and Ray, 1940

True to form, kids came along, first me in 1942 and then my sister Judy in 1947. In 1952 the family moved to LaMarque, Texas for Daddy’s job as a tax accountant in a chemical plant. When we’d moved into our new house, a neighbor took a picture of us for posterity. Notice that at 36 Daddy was already going grey:

The Balthazors in LaMarque, 1952

For two years in Texas we had a fairly normal nuclear family life, but then in 1954 Daddy took us off into the woods of Arkansas to a truck-stop café on Highway 74. Thereafter, our familial relations essentially disintegrated, but that’s another story I’ve reflected in my autobiographical novella “Bat in a Whirlwind.” After I left home for college at eighteen in 1960, Daddy only lived another six years, dying of heart problems at only 50.

In 1971, after five years of widowhood, at 52 Mother married a Texan named Bill Tapp, but only a year later was abandoned by that husband. Afterward, she enjoyed single life in New Orleans for another 42 years, her favorite activity being square-dancing. Yvonne’s really big adventure was surviving Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She kept on square-dancing right up to 93, as in this 2011 snapshot by a dancer friend when she was 92. In early 2013 Yvonne died peacefully at 94.

Yvonne at 92, 2011

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