Ginnie’s mom died yesterday. She was a lovely woman who lived to be 94, and Ginnie posted on Facebook:
In tribute to my mom, Barbara Bacheler, who lived her 94 years with gusto, spreading light and love to everyone she came in contact with. She’s my hero. And this is her first appearance on Facebook, which would bemuse her!
I like to think that my memory of her would bemuse her, as well.
Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about the first time I met Ginnie’s mom, and how she so kindly served me my last breakfast at a kitchen table in the summer of 1971 before Hank and I headed off for the Canadian border in my 1970 Ford Maverick, color Thanks Vermillion, to begin our Kerouacian tour of America.
The day I met Ginnie’s mom began in Brooklyn, where I loaded my duffel bag full of clothes and my Gibson guitar and a brand-new, never-used two-man canvas tent, and a brand-new, never-used Coleman stove, and a brand-new, never-used Coleman lamp and a brand-new, never-used Coleman cooler — we were so experienced at this camping stuff — and drove to Queens to pick up Hank, who threw in his suitcase and our journey began.
The plan for the day was to drive to Rochester, spend the night at Ginnie’s place, and then continue the next morning to Niagara Falls. We’d cross into Canada and spend the day at the Falls, and then we’d drive around the Great Lakes and reenter the U.S. in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, home of the most vicious no-see-ums on god’s earth.
Along the way, Hank would have to learn how to drive a standard shift (something at which he’d fail miserably a couple of weeks later at an intersection on a steep hill in Rapid City, South Dakota, causing the first traffic jam in that city’s history).
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Hank and I spent the day traveling from Queens to Rochester, where we hooked up with Ginnie and met her parents. I don’t recall whether we had dinner there, but I’m pretty sure we must have, and then it was getting late, and Hank and I decided it was time to take the never-used tent and the never-used Coleman lamp out for a spin. In Ginnie’s backyard.
Looking back, I’m not sure whether that was actually our idea or Ginnie’s parents’. I can say now, for sure, that if I had a 19-year-old daughter who looked like Ginnie and a couple of 20-year-old guys who looked like me and Hank showed up one night, they damn well wouldn’t be sleeping in my house anywhere near my little girl. They’d be sleeping outdoors, you can bet on that.
So whether it was Ginnie’s parents’ idea or our idea, Ginnie’s mom promised us a nice hot breakfast in the morning, and Hank and I went out the back door and climbed into our little canvas tent in Ginnie’s backyard, where we spent the night.
The next morning, we walked back in through the back door for the breakfast Ginnie’s mom promised us. And we sat down with Ginnie and her mom and dad, and Ginnie’s mom had prepared a huge bowl of oatmeal for everyone.
This is where I mention that I hate oatmeal. I mean . . . I HATE OATMEAL. I really, really, really HATE OATMEAL.
There’s something about its warm, gooey, lumpy, slimy texture that just makes me gag. It sits on the back of my tongue and slides against the roof of my mouth and screams WHY DID YOU PUT ME HERE?
And Ginnie’s mom ladled out a full bowl for me.
But Ginnie’s mom was so sweet, so kind, so nice, so outgoing, so generous . . . What could I do?
Spoonful by awful spoonful, I shoved that stuff into my mouth and swallowed. And nice boy that I am, I wasn’t going to leave any behind, so as not to prompt any “Didn’t you like it?” questions.
I ate the whole thing. It was an ordeal, but I did it.
And my achievement didn’t go unnoticed. Ginnie’s mom looked at my empty bowl, smiled broadly and said she was so glad I liked it . . .
And then she did the unthinkable.
She gave me seconds. Yup she filled the entire bowl with another heaping helping.
And, yeah, nice boy that I am, I fought the urge to purge all over the kitchen table and ate that one, too.
A little while later, Hank and I had the car loaded up again, and we said our goodbyes, and we told Ginnie we’d see her back at school in a couple of months, and we headed off to Niagara Falls.
And as soon as we drove off, Hank turned to me and said:
“That was great oatmeal!”
* * *
There’s another reason I loved Ginnie’s mom. It’s because she begat Ginnie.
Ginnie spent her junior year of college abroad, and it was during that time, in London, that she met another young woman spending her junior year abroad, a University of Vermont student named Linda.
Ginnie and Linda became best of friends, and a couple of years later, when both had graduated from college, Linda, who was from Poughkeepsie, took a job in New York. In the fall of 1973, Ginnie wrote to Linda and said she was coming to visit New York and, since Linda was new to the big city, she had some friends there she’d like Linda to meet.
And so it was that Linda and Ginnie and Hank and Mike and I all went to the movies one night in early October.
And so it was that, a year and a half later, Ginnie was the maid of honor at Linda’s wedding. I was the groom.
Thank you, Ginnie’s mom, for making all of that possible. Rest in peace.
— 30 —