12. Mom, Coast-to-Coast


As a young adult I came to realize that, when it comes to most of the biggest things, I was a lucky kid. I had my mother. Most photos of me from when I was young are all smiles and fun—I look like I’m having a terrific time. Because, despite the sad stories, and the tough times, we usually were having a great time. Mom saw to that. 

Mom and me, probably the High Sierras, 1974.

Now, Mom certainly had a weakness for the exciting maverick bad boys. Her late 1960s rock ’n’ roll rebellion was more reckless than some—but then, Natalie was her own person. Mom made decisions and traveled roads that were exciting but also perilous. She was courageous and strong in the face of some brutal experiences that life and love threw at her. She was adventurous and unwilling to accept values that she didn’t believe in—Mom stayed true to her beliefs, she lived them and continues to live them. She struggled with depression and anger at times, but she fought through them and stays resilient. She fashioned a life for herself and her children, a life that she could believe in, and she continues to have a strong positive influence over her grandchildren, my niece and nephews. She’s found a good, reliable man in John, who’s been by her side ever since Big Bear in the early nineties. Mom is a shier, more private person than I am, so I don’t have too much license with Mom’s own life from her point of view, but I believe Natalie Fogarty’s own story is that of a truly singular American woman. 

Me with Mom and our dog Poochie in Big Bear Lake, California, 1974.

For my part, there is one story in my life that is entirely straightforward: it’s Mom, her love, her steadfast support of me. I refuse to even contemplate alternative story lines involving a life where that nasty little handgun back in Big Bear in the late eighties, when Mom once tried to shoot herself in the head, actually did what it was designed to do.