We flew into Panama City every few months on tiny airplanes, (you know that if a plane falls over the jungle you will never be found, it just closes around you) my husband more frequently then I, He would bring back food and books magazines and chocolate. It was a difficult time for me and he didn’t really understand that as he had his own devils to deal with. When in the city we stayed in his mother’s home that was the pit stop for families in town or kids going to school. His Mother was retired as director of a school and was the primary caregiver to two young granddaughters.
His sister lived there too and was employed by a US agency, she spoke perfect English but didn’t have much to say to me during those first difficult years. She did us a kindness sending everything needed for a Thanksgiving dinner to El Real one year. We were able to share it with some visiting scientists, a real Thanksgiving dinner, they were very surprised and certainly didn’t expect to have turkey on good china that Thanksgiving!
We were married for 30 years, some were the best years of my life but there were times when I wanted to run home, I guess that happens in many marriages, especially when opposites marry and are unable to make allowances for each other. The years in Darien were made more difficult by the cantinas. My husband had a weakness and I didn’t know how to deal with it, It seemed there was nothing else for a man to do in El Real, drink and play dominoes. My saving grace was that another PCV gave me his peace corp library when he left Panama. I read while he spent time at the cantina with other like-minded souls. I had my children to keep me busy, his fathering skills were underdeveloped. Part of his frustration was because his father didn’t allow him to use the skills he had learned in his studies at LSU so he was unable to implement new systems for the finca. He was and is a good man and now is married to a woman he has more in common with and I am very happy for him, we were married for 30 years before I left.
We are still in El Real at this point in my story.
This is a photo of the family home in El Real, my daughter has a watercolor painting of it and in it, it is a very elegant structure. But by 1965 it is getting tired looking. My daughter has the painting because she was born in this house.
My first two children were born in Panama city in a hospital, I would live in the city for the last month of pregnancy just waiting to get this done so I could go back home to El Real with my new baby.
My second was born in the city as well but my last baby came a bit before expected and she was born at home with Carmen, a midwife from town. My brother-in-law Doctor was spending a few days during Easter and was there for delivery but doubted me when I told him the baby was ready to be born that day. So I made preparations. Carmen and I did all the work. It went fine but for some reason tears flowed for hours after the birth, uncontrolled, just tears falling, not crying but the tears just kept rolling down, we told the kids that a big mosquito had stung me and that’s why mamá is crying. I was happy to see my Mother-in-law come to help me a few days later when there were flights after the Easter holiday.
Baby was without a name for a week while we thought of a name for this beautiful baby. I wanted a name my family could pronounce correctly as they had trouble with Marissa and Enrique. I wanted to name her after my sisters and tried combinations of their names Sharon and Nancy but ended up just using Nancy. I needed help giving her the first bath because I couldn’t stand up after delivery. I think had a subluxation of my coccyx (displaced tailbone) that corrected itself after a couple days, so a cousin gave her the first bath. Odd, I never said anything about it to the Doctor or anyone, they probably thought I was just a lazy wimp.
Carmen pierced her ears a few days later.