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Tag Archives: Lockheed

her tractor years

Dorothy on tractorIt’s hard for me to imagine my mother on a tractor, but there she is, next to a bare-chested and bereted man I can’t identify. She was a fair-skinned redhead who avoided the sun and could never be called outdoorsy, but there she is, in scarf and sunglasses, facing into the wide glare of afternoon.

Her tractor years were the war years, when she worked at Lockheed and was part-owner of a horse. She looks happy in the pictures from that time, unencumbered and unselfconscious. Her face is relaxed, her smile genuine. She has friends and work and, in a way that was unique in her lifetime, worth.

Perhaps the land and the horses and tractors — and the people who tended them — allowed her to forget her feelings of inadequacy and ugliness. Maybe she could stop comparing, stop measuring herself against others and against the lofty impossibility of her mother’s expectations.

A sketchbook always tucked into her purse or pocket, she has dirt on her shoes and the smell of horse on her hands. She has an easy comfort in her body, fresh air on her skin. I wish I had known her.

the mare and the manicure

Elsie and Easy Does It 1945During World War II, my mother worked as a draftsperson at Lockheed — the only job she ever held. She was divorced from her first husband and living on her own. The photos from that time don’t show her at her drafting table, but wearing boots and a bandanna at a small Chatsworth ranch where she was part-owner of a horse with two of her Lockheed friends.

It’s hard for me to imagine her pitching hay or mucking a stall, though the three young women look happy with their filly, Easy Does It. The pictures suggest a degree of carefree competence, of physicality, of outdoorsy fun that I never knew in my mother.

But one of my favorite photos from the time is of my Grandma Elsie, my mother’s mother. Born into Victorian comforts and constraints, Elsie was elegant throughout her life. It’s quite possible she didn’t own a pair of pants. Here, at age 60, skirted and stockinged, earringed and hatted, she sits with perfect posture to offer Easy Does It a morsel on her outstretched “Careful!-keep-your-hand-flat!” palm.

Dorothy remained friends with one of the other women for the rest of her life, but once my parents met — perhaps a year after this photo was taken — the horse, like the war and Dorothy’s brief tenure at Lockheed, slipped into a zone of nostalgic reverie. Her war so different from his; their life together all that mattered now.