She Laughed Her Way Through Her Trial!
She Laughed Her Way Through Her Trial!
Southern California in 1958 seemed like another world to me. I should have been used to traveling and changing towns. This place had a different “feel” about it. But I knew I would adjust. At 14, I had already gone to 21 schools. My Dad, Carl Ballestero, had been an Evangelist or Pastor all my life. Moving almost seemed normal to us.
Daddy had just resigned the little storefront church he had started in Yakima, WA. He had gotten a letter from a pastor he knew requesting he come and take his church as he was going to the mission field.
Our family of seven was crammed into the two door 1948 Pontiac. A small tarp covered utility trailer holding everything we possessed in the world was hitched to the bumper. We looked like Gypsies, I’m sure.
When we arrived at the Pastor’s home to present ourselves, a shocked look came into his eyes and he said, “Oh Brother Ballestero, I am so sorry, I’ve changed my mind and I decided to stay. I meant to write you and tell you not to come.”
My Father smiled and thanked him as he turned back to the car trying not to let dismay or discouragement show on his face to his family. We drove down the road a ways and turned a corner and stopped the car. Daddy and Mother had to decide what we were going to do next.
We had nowhere to go. Daddy only had $85 cash left. My four little sisters seemed too young to understand the crisis. There was not enough gas to go another 100 miles.
Daddy bought a newspaper and he and Mom read the “houses for rent” section of the classifieds. There was a converted duplex in National City that might work. The price was $80 a month. The last line said “no children.” We went to look anyway.
Daddy said that he knew the Pastor in National City, a Brother Leaman Reynolds. I’d never heard of him. Mom said maybe we could attend his church while Daddy Evangelized for a while.
When we arrived at the rental house, the landlady was waiting. When she saw us 5 kids, she promptly told Daddy that children were not allowed.
“Do you need me to drown them for you?” was his response.
She looked us over carefully and smiled and then agreed to let us rent the house. Now, we had $5.00 left. We drove to town and Dad talked the Utility Company into turning on the water and electricity for $5.00.
The car and trailer got unloaded quickly. There were no beds, so pallets were made on the floor. I went behind the Safeway Grocery Store and found 4 wooden orange crates by the trash bin. We took a closet door off and laid it on the orange crates to make a dinning room table of sorts. We didn’t have any chairs. The good news was, the crates made the table a comfortable height for those sitting on the floor.
The first morning, I was awakened by feminine shrieks. The previous renters had lived in the house with 16 dogs. (We’d found out later.)
My little sister’s arms, legs and torsos had flea bites everywhere. All of us were bitten. The fleas were still visible and so thick that mom got her Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner and took the hose and vacuumed the fleas off of our bodies.
When that chore was finished, we turned our eyes to Mom. She said to Dad, “Carl, we don’t even have a quarter to buy flea powder. But God said in Malachi, that if we would pay our tithes, He would rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Now honey, we’ve paid our tithes, so let’s get down here on the floor and ask God to rebuke these little devourers for our sake.”
And pray we did. Or, at least pray Mom and Dad did. Most of us kids just scratched with our eyes closed. I think we scratched more than we prayed. Mom has always been one of those Holy Ghost women that can go from “0” to “100” in 3 seconds. It didn’t take Mom long in pray before we heard her shift gears and move on out to the “Glory World” in God.
I don’t remember what she said, but what I do remember is that, when that 15-minute prayer meeting was over, the miracle had already happened. From that moment till we moved out over a year later, there were no more fleas found in that house!
Mother had brought a large bag of Pinto Beans down from Washington. A 50 lb. sack, if I remember correctly. The beans provided or only source of food for about a month. There was no salt, pepper, or ham hock to season with. We all drank tap water and felt happy for that. Beans three times a day. The current generation, with their luxuries from the WaterSoftenerGuide, we had none of that and it made us strong mentally.
When we gathered at the makeshift dinner table for supper. We folded our legs and sat on the floor. Mom announced the menu every evening and came around one by one and asked the same questions of us all.
“Tonight Darlings, we have:
- Fried Chicken?
- Roast Beef?
- Swiss Steak?
Which would you like?”
“Oh, I’d like some chicken,” I said.
“Great choice! Do you want white meat or dark meat?” was her next question.
When I said I wanted white meat, Mom put a spoonful of beans on my plate.
“Do you want:
- Baked potato?
- Fried potatoes?
- Mashed potatoes?
When we answered, Mom would put another dollop of beans on our plate. If we chose mashed potatoes, she would put a few more on that pile saying it was gravy.
Then she asked, do you want:
- Corn on the cob?
- California blend?
- Fresh snapped green beans?
Another pile was added regardless of our choice.
The salad menu often included:
- Garden salad (Dressings required additional beans)
- Caesar salad
- Cottage cheese and pears
Mom smiled and we laughed together as she served our supper. It was funny to us to say we wanted one thing and then be served another.
There always was a saucer beside our plates. The saucer served as a dessert plate.
Every night, we got to choose between things like.
- Chocolate cake
- Banana Pudding
- Strawberry Shortcake
When she finished serving us there were often 4 or 5 piles of beans on our plates, not counting our dessert.
Mama made us smile at mealtime as she used her imagination to lighten the reality of life.
One afternoon after a month or so, a grocery store delivery truck backed up to our door. The driver looked at his delivery receipt and asked if this was the Ballestero residence. When we said it was, he opened the back door of the bobtail truck and there were sacks and sacks and more sacks of groceries.
Mother told him there must be some mistake, because we hadn’t ordered any groceries.
He looked at the delivery order again. And then said, “It says here the groceries have paid for by someone named: Anonymous. Over two hundred dollars worth paid in full. And they are to be delivered to the home of Carl Ballestero.
We cried with joy as the sacks of food covered the table, the counter, and the floor. We didn’t even know what to eat first. But what we did first was thank the Lord.
As a result of my Mom’s attitude during hard times, I was a full-time evangelist for over two years before I knew what a trial was. Mom had made our journey through hard times seem so fun and enjoyable, I didn’t know it was a trial. I thought everybody lived like that! She showed us that, “attitude was not something, attitude was everything.”
Thanks Mom! You’re the Best!