Sunday was Mother’s Day. It was my first one after losing my mother in June of 2012. A lot of the day was spent reflecting on my life with her – and that included the shared memories of Chris, Daulton and Mom.
My mother was a beauty queen, landing on the front pages of local newspapers all those years ago. My dad, then a young Marine, saw that face and knew instantly that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. I was their firstborn and chose Mom as my best friend and cohort. We were joined at the hip, sharing a wicked sense of sarcasm that could stop a man in his tracks. If there was a road trip, she’d always volunteer to ride shotgun.
The 1980s found Mom and me on the road a lot to visit Daulton. Lompoc, Terminal Island and Phoenix were days to remember. The winding road through the hills of Santa Barbara County, horrible meals at Anderson’s Pea Soup Restaurant, and shopping for silly things in Solvang.
Mom, the former beauty queen, dressed in silk pants and high heels sitting in a prison visiting room. San Diego to Phoenix across the desert while Mom sang along to the radio. We would drive at night to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.
In the Lompoc visiting room one afternoon, a woman turned knowingly to Mom and gestured to Daulton. “Drugs?”
Mom smiled quietly and responded wickedly: “No, no, not at all. He’s a spy.”
My mother loved Daulton. She found him to be a gentle soul, unlike the Snowman character portrayed in the book and the movie The Falcon and the Snowman. Daulton was focused, hardworking and intelligent. While Daulton and I shared our bond over the years, he and my mother had a different kind of relationship.
He would call her in the afternoon “just to chat.” He never missed her birthday or Christmas and looked forward to her visits. On several occasions, she would make the five-hour drive to Lompoc without me and they would spend the day talking, having lunch from the vending machine and just “hanging out.”
Through the years, my parents wrote numerous letters in support of Daulton’s parole. On the day it finally happened, one of the first things Daulton did was make a special call to Mom.
Her relationship with Chris came later. His dry sense of humor caught her, attracted her to long conversations with The Falcon. She’d climb into the car, bouncing along bumpy roads, looking at birds or hiking the beach at Half Moon Bay to run the dogs and watch the peregrines zip overhead past the cliffs.
It never got old for her. She would sit and listen to Chris’s escapades, from bank robbery to falconry, and she enjoyed every moment. She was proud of Chris and his remarkable re-entrance into society, beaming as brightly at him through the wedding ceremony and she did at me.
I was a bit of a wild child, the child who would walk the tightrope in my family. Mom had come to grips with that early on in her career as Mother of the Troublemaker. She would tell me later that I was her “blue note child” – the child sent home from Catholic school with a note pinned to her jumper, the child who was in constant trouble.
So I guess it really came as no shock to Mom when the spies entered into her life. She took that as she did everything else – with grace and dignity, and support for her eldest child. She never made apologies for Chris or Daulton, and her support for them was unwavering. No, she didn’t understand why they had committed their crime. Dad was a career Marine officer and she voted Republican. How could she ever be expected to understand?
“Mom, don’t ever read the Letters to the Editor,” I would warn her anytime a newspaper article was printed. She would get angry when she read comments by people who had never met Chris or Daulton.
“If they only knew what I knew,” would always be her response. She loved those boys and they loved her in return.
My Sunday random images came back to haunt me. I missed Mom more than words could say, but I also had to laugh. There were so many moments that I will treasure forever – moments with Chris, Daulton and Mom.
Cait Boyce is the co-author of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book tells the story of her 20-year effort to free Cold War spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee, whose stories were popularized in the bestselling book and critically acclaimed movie The Falcon and the Snowman. American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and other retail outlets.