. . . she wasn't, but there was a fun side to her for all of that. Kay Frances, her name was, and in her high school days of the mid-1940s, she was wired to be a mathematician. If women had been allowed to do anything in that era, she would have been one of the pioneers of the space program, but they weren't, so she turned her faculty with numbers to a trade where she was welcome. She was a gambler.
Mom played every card game you could toss down a nickel on, and played it well. In fact, I hesitate to call what she did gambling. There are 52 cards in a standard deck, four suits of 13 each. To calculate the combinations that are possible during a game, multiply 52 by itself 52 times. When I lived with her in Monterey, her specialty was panguingue, a game of Filipino origin played with 320 cards, and that makes for a calculation your pocket calculator won't help you with. The thing with mom was that every time a card was exposed as a discard or a play, she would recalculate in her head the odds of what would likely happen next, and bet accordingly. The Christmas I was with her, 1963 if memory serves, we had spent all of our money on food. I had about $5 in my piggy bank. Mom took that and disappeared for three days. When she returned home, she had $850! We drove down to San Diego with the car packed with gifts, and had one of the great Christmas reunions ever.
Sometimes mom worked for the house, either salaried or for a percentage of the take, sometimes as a shill, and sometimes she freelanced. A shill is someone the house pays to pad out the game in order to attract more players. She would be given a stake which had to be paid back, and she kept whatever she won beyond that. When she freelanced, she almost never lost, as witnessed by the fact that this was her career for decades. She paid rent, owned cars, had a social life, and moved from town to town all without ever seeing a guaranteed payday. The card rooms, licensed and otherwise, must have quaked in their boots when she sat down at the table, but they didn't dare refuse her, or she wouldn't work for them in the future.
It sounds carefree the way I write about it, but it couldn't have been easy. At sixteen, she was pregnant with me, dealing cards in the back room of a waterfront bar and doing her own bouncing. That's the family story, anyway. It seems harsh to modern ears, child labor laws being what they are, but she gave birth to me a month after her 17th birthday, and I'm pretty sure she didn't meet the sailor who was my father in her high school home-ec class. With her as my escort, I spent some time in that world, and it was a subculture that lived by its own rules even back in the 50s and 60s.
I have always held it against my mom that in the age of Leave it to Beaver, I didn't even have one parent, but whenever she was around, at least when she was younger, we always had fun; my friends always thought she was my sister. I think it was her lifestyle that gave her a devil-may-care, get through today attitude toward living, and it rubbed off on me when I was around her. Later in life, she got a civil service job. Card rooms were in decline, run off by the Indian Casinos, and if you were going to deal for them you had to look like a runway model. Besides that, she may have been thinking about laying up a retirement fund. She worked in the main personnel office in the San Diego Federal Building, and put my name on the list for the test that got me my first Federal job, but something about the 9 to 5 turned her sour and cynical. Something about being a rat in a maze killed that free spirit, and in her old age, she became such an emotional black hole to be around that we finally stopped seeing each other. It's hard to say whose fault that ultimately was, but when she started dumping her emotional baggage on my 5-year old daughter, I told her to knock it off or take a hike; she never called again. You know, maybe she didn't have the nose-to-the-grindstone temperament to be a rocket scientist, even if they'd let her in.
So that's the story of Kay F. Davidson, September 19th, 1931 - May 23rd, 1998. There are many things that can be said about her, pro and con, but this must be included: She molded life into what she needed it to be...
Now take your cue from her, and get out there and live life like you mean it!
This is for the grandkids, the family, close friends, and anyone else who can keep a civil tongue in their heads! It amounts to an interactive book of memoirs, but only if you interact... so get to it!
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California has been my home since 1965. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm home to stay!
What is there to say about a ten-year old turning 65, besides, what the hell happened?!??