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There was a stirring around our house.  Grandma’s business opportunity came to fruition and she moved to Albuquerque where she would open her own novelty store: "Ruby's Novelties."  Our service stations were unfruitful and Mom and Deryl were becoming restless.  A change was on the horizon.

     The following story is my first answer to prayer. I was eleven years old.


          “Mom, we can’t leave Kitty behind,” I argued desperately.
          Deryl walked past carrying a heavy box.  The object of our discussion sauntered nonchalantly across the bare kitchen floor, unaware that I was pleading for her.       
The year was 1955.  Our family was moving to the northern part of New Mexico where Deryl would be driving for a new truck company.  We didn’t know where we would be living yet, but we were going anyway.  My only concern, as an eleven year old was my cat!
          “Gloria, that cat is going to have kittens any day.  We can’t take her with us.  I told you to give her to one of your friends,” Mom said impatiently.
          “I did try to find her a home, but no one can take her.”
          “Did you ask Claudia?”
          “Yes, but her mother said their dog is enough of a nuisance.  Besides, when I told Claudia’s mother if we didn’t find a home for Kitty, we might have to leave her here by herself, she said that she would turn us in to the Humane Society for Animals.”
          “She said that?” Mom’s eyes widened and her face flushed.
Whether it was the threat of the Humane Society, or a soft spot in her heart, Mom did allow Kitty to accompany us.  The striped cat lay uncomfortably on the seat between my brother and me, as Mom drove our heavily laden station wagon.  Deryl drove the U Haul truck.
          “Oh no!” Mom exclaimed, as she looked through the station wagon window.  We had stopped for lunch at a restaurant and had just returned to the car.  I peeked through the window.  There, on a pile of clothes, in the back of the station wagon, was Kitty and four newborn kittens.
 After everyone (especially Mom) calmed down, we continued our journey. We arrived in Farmington, New Mexico, and stayed in a motel.  The following days were miserable as we searched for a house to rent.  Kitty’s newborns were sick.
          “They would be better off if we left them at a farm.  Kitty can take care of herself and the kittens.  Besides, farmers love cats,” Mom said convincingly.
          My eyes were blurry as I stared out the back window.  Kitty sat gazing at the parting station wagon.  Her litter was near her by the side of the road.  A driveway of a farmhouse was nearby.
          Two days later we unloaded ourselves and our belongings into a bungalow
 in Kirtland, a small community near Farmington.  As I explored the area, I made a discovery!  Our rented house was in proximity to the farm where we had left the cats.  I wasted no time in finding the farmhouse.  Much to my sorrow, there by the side of the road, where we had left them, were four dead kittens.  I began to cry.
          “What’s wrong, little girl,” the farmer asked, as he walked down the driveway.
          Between sobs, I showed him the kittens and poured out my story.  When I finished, I asked hopefully:
          “Have you seen Kitty?”
          “Well, there has been a new cat hanging around.  She’s yellow striped,” he answered.
          “That’s her!” I exclaimed, swallowing my tears.
          “The last time I saw her, she was in the barn.  I’ll tell you what, you get her and take her home with you.”
I sure did want Kitty, but I remembered Mom.  She had said she’d had enough of cats.
          “I have to ask my mother first,” I replied, as I turned to leave.
          When I got home I told Mom about Kitty, and asked if I could bring her home.
          “The only way you can have Kitty is if she comes here by herself,” Mom said.  I knew she thought it was impossible, because Kitty didn’t even know where we lived.
          I sat on the warm cement step of the bungalow, my chin cupped in my hands as I pondered my dilemma. The only One I knew who could help me with something as big as this was God. I closed my eyes.
          “Oh God, please send Kitty home to me.”  Then I remembered what Mom had told me a long time ago...every prayer should be prayed in Jesus’ name. “In Jesus’ Name.  Amen, and thank You.”
          “Hey Gloria, what ya doing?”
          The voice startled me, and I opened my eyes to see Sally walking up the sidewalk.  She lived two houses away and we had met shortly after I moved in.
          “Would you like to stay over at my house tonight?” Sally asked. “My mother said it’s okay with her.”
          I asked Mom, and she agreed that I could.  As we walked to Sally’s, I told her about Kitty and my prayer.
          “Kitty will be coming, Sally, so we’ll have to watch for her.”
          The summer evening was warm and pleasant as we played in my friend’s front yard.  My eyes kept returning to our rented cottage.  My family was gone for the evening, and the windows were dark.  In my heart I had an expectation.
          “Sally look!” I shouted as I motioned toward a low shadow sleeking across the street and up our driveway.
          Sally and I ran to the shadow, and the yellow striped cat stared up at me as if to say, “I don’t know what this is about, but here I am.”
          “Kitty, oh Kitty!” I squealed as I picked her up.
          After I had just about hugged off all of Kitty’s fur, Sally and I put her into a shed behind our house.  I shut the door.  I knew God had brought her to me, but I felt it was my responsibility to keep her.
          The next morning, bright and early, I ran home from Sally’s.
          “Mom, come here.  I have something to show you,” I said, as I took her hand and pulled her out the back door to the shed.
          Kitty stretched and sauntered into the sunlight when I opened the shed door.  Mom stared at Kitty and then at me, and then at Kitty again.
          “See, Mom, Kitty came home all by herself!”
          “Are you sure she came all by herself?” Mom asked, suppressing a smile.
          “Yes, she did.” I said honestly.
          “Well then, I guess you can keep her.”  Mom walked back into the house smiling to herself.
          “Mom probably thinks I  brought you home,” I said to the furry animal purring in my arms, “But God, you, and I know better, don’t we Kitty?”
          Her big eyes were full of confirmation.
          “Thank you, God,” I said out loud.  I looked up at the blue sky, to the invisible God, who had answered the prayer I had prayed in “Jesus’Name.”
          I left the shed door open and watched Kitty to see if she would stay.  She settled right in and eventually, much to Mom’s chagrin had another litter of kittens

                                                      THE GALA EVENT

          I stroked the yellow striped kitten as it lay on my bed.  “Kitty” was the ingenious name I had selected for the small ball of fur.  I had brought her home from a neighbor’s house, begging Mom to let me keep her.  I was thrilled when Mom consented.
          “Come here Kitty,” I said tenderly as I pulled her into my arms.  Her fur was soft as I held her close. Her purring rewarded my attention.
          Kitty and I spent most of our time together when I wasn’t in school.  There was only one other girl my age in our neighborhood.  She came from a well to do family and she was my friend...well...on our block she was my friend.  At school she acted like she was too good for me.  I quess I would have to say...she was a snob!  One day, a few months earlier, as we walked along the sidewalk between our houses, Claudia announced to me,
          “I’m going to have a party!  Mother says I can invite twenty kids,” she bragged.
          I waited for my invitation. Claudia continued...
          “I’d like to invite you Gloria, but I have the list made up and there are already twenty on it.”
          Well so much for that, I thought.
          With sudden inspiration, Claudia said, “You can help me with the party if you want to.”
          Claudia and I planned the party.  We addressed invitations, and she was right, there were twenty names, and mine wasn’t one of them.
          For party favors, we bought tiny plastic animals at the local Dime Store.  We glued the feet onto colored cardboard bases.  Across the bottom of each base we wrote the name of the guest who would be attending.
          I didn’t tell Mom and Grandma about the party because they would have wondered why I wasn’t invited, and they wouldn’t have approved of my helping under the circumstances.
          The day before the event, Claudia was behaving strangely.
          “Gloria, I’ve been thinking...huh,” Claudia began sheepishly, “You’ve been so much help...well...I mean...would you like to come tomorrow night?”
          I was so excited!  I ran home to tell Mom and Grandma I was invited to a party!  Bless Mom’s heart, because it was my first “gala event”, she took me to the store in Belen and bought me a new skirt and blouse for the occasion.  She never knew that I had worked all week and was the last person to be invited.
          On Friday night, I wore my new clothes and socialized with the other guests on Claudia’s large patio.  Blue and gold party lanterns swayed in the evening breeze above the laughter and chatter of the young people.  In my hand, pressed against the waist of my navy, cotton skirt, was the party favor Claudia had given me.  I opened my fingers and looked at the tiny plastic kitten on the pink cardboard base.  “Gloria” was written across the bottom in Claudia’s handwriting.

Historia de Belén

Two Spaniards, Captain Don Diego Torres and Antonio Salazar, Torres’ brother-in-law, founded Belen in 1740. They named it Belen, Spanish for Bethlehem, in honor of that town. The forty families who founded Belen began a community based on agriculture. By the 19th century, Belen’s economy had expanded into sheep herding, and the town grew. After New Mexico became a territory of the United Stated in 1846, immigrants began arriving and the Belen area developed as a mercantile center with trade base extending west to the Arizona line and east to the Estancia Valley. The arrival of the railroad in 1880 eventually brought shops, a roundhouse, ice plant, and yards containing miles of track and a depot. In 1918, the village of Belen came into existence. The first village ordinance was passed July 1, 1919 to provide for methods of enacting ordinances that would result in officials and taxes as well as fire and police protection.
Belen became a town in 1940 and then a city in 1966. Today Belen boasts stores, motels, restaurants, friendly residents, and interesting places to visit and enjoy.

Grandma Underwood
          Belen was north of Socorro.  The larger community sprawled across rugged open territory.
          I had the usual jitters as Mom and I entered the two –story, red brick school building to register me.  For the first time, Deryl and Wanda Gaines were named as my parents on the enrollment card.  During school, I kept my feelings on guard.  I had decided to survive, and that meant hiding behind an emotional wall.
          On the outskirts of Belen, in an older residential area, Deryl and Mom bought a four-bedroom house.  Our family grew again when Grandma Underwood came to live with us.  She said she would only stay until the business opportunity she was waiting for opened up.
          Grandma was four feet, eleven inches tall.  She may have been small, but she was mighty!  She moved with perpetual energy.  When she did sit down, which wasn’t often, she lit a cigarette.  Her hazel eyes sparkled behind glasses, and her long auburn hair was braided on top of her head.  At night, when she brushed her tresses, they hung to her waist.  Once, when I was little, someone asked me where I got my long hair.  I had replied, “from Grandma.”
          Life had not been easy for the little lady.  As a child, she experienced the death of her mother.  As a young woman, she married a Kentuckian, Ernest Underwood.  They moved west, leaving behind her father and only sister in Ohio.  Eight children were born into a tumultuous, difficult marriage.  Grandpa Underwood, who when drunk (it was told) ,took seven men to hold him down, was also unfaithful. Grandma's distrust of men had left her with independence, ingenuity, and toughness.  I soon learned that underneath her smiling exterior was a quick, feisty temperament.  I walked softly around her.
          Grandma’s coming gave Deryl and Mom more time for the stations and each other.  I was with Grandma more than with Mom.  Mom and I were still detaching, and where once I had cared; now I was developing my own independence. I felt very distant from my mother.

Grandma in later years.