Bette Time

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My mother’s name is Bette. She has always had a thing about being punctual.

Even as a child, I remember being taught never to be late for anything. My mother believed that and lived that. Even though she had four small children to get ready to go out, she always started the process very early, so never to run short of time.

This special allotment of extra time carried right through our adult lives. I'm not sure what she thought would happen, heaven forbid, were we ever late to anything, but I just knew it would never happen. Perhaps it was her "always be prepared for the unexpected" attitude that drove her.

As we children got a little older, we started referring to time as "real time" and "Bette time." “Bette time” meant that you give yourself an extra hour. Being on “Bette time,” you never miss a flight, never miss an opening curtain, never miss the start of anything.

Mom always had tables set hours before company would arrive, always had the food prepped and ready to go way before the actual time to cook.

For many years, we kids have kidded about “Bette time” but knew that to mom this was no joke. It was not optional for us.

Now, to a couple of her children, “Bette time” was a nightmare. Always having to be somewhere early was difficult. We were smart enough to know that this was something that she was unwilling to waver, so we did the best we could.

One of my funniest examples of “Bette time” happened in 1997. My mom, my sister-in-law, my two sisters and myself were traveling through Europe. It was a wonderful trip of five girls giggling their way through six countries. Because “Bette time” never rested, traveling with mom was, well, let’s just say an experience.

On our tour, we had to have our luggage outside our hotel room door by 6 a.m. (which meant 4 or 5 to her). Breakfast was at 7, which meant we were dressed and in the restaurant lobby at 6. In any given city, her pacing began before the tour guide arrived.

We often referred to “Bette time” and soon several of our traveling group began asking, “Is that Bette time or real time?"

While in London, we were having breakfast. We were to meet up with our group in the bus out front of the hotel at 7:30 a.m.

We were eating and everyone was enjoying discussing our day’s plan. Mom was getting so anxious about the time, you could just about see her quiver. She was chomping at the bit to get out to that bus, and couldn't sit another minute. She had to get out there and save our seats.

We were only about half way done eating when she got up and said she'd meet us on the bus. About 10 minutes later we went to the bus and found mom was not there. We couldn't imagine what could have happened. We piled off the bus and looked around and saw another bus down the drive way.

We ran to that bus laughing and thinking, "Oh great, we lost mom." We boarded the other bus and our eyes scanned every seat. Imagine our surprise when we saw about 70 African American women and our one little mother. One of the palest white women in the world, completely surrounded by an entire bus filled with a beautiful Baptist church group. I could be wrong, but I think I'd notice.

The funniest part was that Mom was so proud of being on “Bette time” and being in her seat early and ready to go that it never dawned on her that she might be on the wrong bus.

If we hadn't gone looking for her, I'm not sure how long she would have sat there. Well you can just imagine all the laughs we had about that. We vowed not to let her out of our sight again.

We still smile every time one of us mentions "Bette time."

Gail Earl is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.

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