Chapter 5, Admired Hotel Maid Mother
I never saw physical contact between my parents but with 5 kids knew
something was physical between them even if in the past.
Mom was born in Hawaii on, the Island of Maui and like Dad we knew little of
her past. She didn't tell us how she left there or met Dad. She rode the bus
and never had a driver's license. She was a farm worker when we occupied run
down rural houses but with a priest’s help secured work as a housekeeper at the
Sainte Claire Hotel, San Jose's downtown grand dame back then.
We bathed with guest's left over small soap bars and shampooed with their
half empty little bottles, perks of her employment. We wiped with toilet paper from
stub rolls with too little left for motel guests. Our towels were motel
discards you could almost see through unless still marred after bleach washing by
a guest using them for shoe shining or nail polish removal.
Guests don't see hotel maids but the maids see all. Mom shared guest gossip
with me and we were close. I learned the married white mayor had a Japanese mistress;
a city councilman was married but gay and which big wigs brought prostitutes or
had one night stands at the hotel. I even learned there was a priest who met
there with a married woman from his parish. I wondered if he gave himself and
her confession when leaving the hotel. Hearing of his sins eased the guilt of
Occasionally a hotel guest left a small housekeeper tip. Mom converted these
into Kennedy silver half dollars and saved them in a cigar box. It was our
monetary reserve. Dad, however, often raided the box and sent me to the market
with one and a note authorizing my purchase of two packs of Lucky Strike
The shop keeper kept these separate in his cash drawer for Mom's eventual
retrieval. While the box was heavy it never filled.
Mom’s other savings stash was stamps, S &H Green and Blue Chip, licked and pasted in little books, each stamp reflecting a 10 cent purchase. The only way to divert Mom’s shop loyalty was for another to offer double stamps. Books were carefully saved with their wrinkled pasted pages to be redeemed for our household luxury items, toaster, iron, coffee maker.