(Long winded memories of nothing particularly striking.)
My dad was mostly not around. He was the love of my mother’s life though. So he would occasionally come over on weekends and spend the night and we would pretend to be a happy family. I say pretend because eventually they would fight or he would leave and we would then act like he didn’t exist again.
Sometimes he would take me to his house for visitations. That’s when he taught me to put mayonnaise on my baked potatoes, which I still love to this day.
I didn’t start talking until I was almost 3. I simply refused to speak. Would not say a single word, not even mama. But my love for sweets got the best of me. One day my mother would not give me a cookie until I said the word for it. So I screamed “cookie” and the floodgates were opened. And while I watched TV in English we only spoke Spanish in the house.
So when I began talking I would use both words for an object. If I was talking about my shoes I would say shoe and zapato as if both words were necessary. But my mom refused to acknowledge anything I said in English. She did so because she wanted me to be fluent in Spanish.
So then in Kindergarten they wanted to put me in a Spanish speaking class because that’s the language I spoke. I really didn’t speak very much English at all, but my mother went to the school and demanded they put me in a English speaking class. That poor teacher. I remember none of this, mind you.
I remember the family that used to watch me before I started Kindergarten. I don’t think the wife liked me very much. I remember her being very mean to me. At one point I needed to go to the restroom but she was bathing her smaller child in the bathtub and told me to wait. I took a nap on her couch (as she told me to) and ended up going in my pants. She was furious with me and that was the last day I spent there. My mom was so angry at me over it. They made her buy them a new couch.
I remember at 6 there was a little boy named Chris at my Christian school and he and I would walk the playground and hold hands. I remember the day we kissed. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to tell my mom. Her reaction was swift.
She slapped my face hard and told me to not do that again. That’s when I learned to not tell her things.
Although I also remember a couple years earlier when my neighborhood playmates were going somewhere and I knew my mom would not let me go so I pretended to ask her and went with this family on an outing. She was mad, but I think more than anything relieved when I eventually showed up. I barely remember the event, but I do remember how stern she was with me and how I knew if I wanted to go that was the only way.
This was about the same time she said that I would run full force into walls when I was upset. At first she tried stopping me because I was hurting myself pretty bad, I guess. But I continued to do it and she just gave up and let me keep ramming myself until I simply outgrew it.
My mother worked a lot and started going to school to get her bachelors degree. She worked for Yamaha at the time. They were a decent company, she had good job security. But she kept having to train her own bosses because they refused to promote her without a degree.
We eventually moved into a house in Norwalk, which was a very hispanic little area in Los Angeles County. Lots of vatos and homegirls there.
My mother’s favorite pastimes were dancing, shopping and eating out. But I hated going to stores with her. I didn’t like having to go wherever she went. I was always so bored. I knew then, even at that young age, that I detested not having autonomy. I couldn’t wait to be an adult and not have to do everything she told me to.
My parents were very for corporal punishment and I remember some very heavy handed beatings. I remember my mother hitting me with an umbrella once. I remember her kicking the crap out of me when I accidentally spilled paint on the new carpet trying to rush to get her a beverage she had asked me for.
I have no happy memories, honestly none. I’m sitting here racking my brain trying to think of a great time, some great moment, something, anything and I genuinely can’t.
You know what I do remember? That my mother worked so much that she could never come to any school events. I remember being in a school show and all the other kids had their parents there and I was so sad I cried and the teacher consoled me as best she could. I sang “These are a Few of My Favorite Things” and the song still makes me feel bittersweet. I love the song, hate the memory.
I do remember my grandmother on my father’s side telling me about God and showing me how to pray. I remember how gentle and kind she was. She was such a sweet soul.
I remember going to visit the ranch my dad was born on. It was in the middle of nowhere. Acres and acres of crops and land with a river cutting through it. I refused to eat anything but beans because everything tasted strange to me. They eventually had to take me by horse to the nearest market (located in a neighbor’s living room) and bought me cinnamon rolls.
The pig pen was also the bathroom, the river was the shower and washing machine. The fresh water creek, another horse ride away, was the only potable water source. The ground of the ranch house was dirt and it was swept daily, which amazed me. There was no phone and no electricity there.
They did have a huge party to celebrate my dad and I visiting and slaughtered a pig and mariachis came and it seemed like every neighbor within 50 miles showed up.
I slept with all the kids in a single bed. We all slept short length on the bed to fit. It was a lot of us.
At one point the kids taunted me into going into a small coral with a wild horse they were trying to tame. I liked horses but was intimidated by this huge beast towering over me. I was all of 7. But it let me stand next to it and pet it. I remember looking into its big dark eyes.
My aunt flew off the handle when she saw me in there. She pulled me out and punished the kids. I guess that horse had hurt a lot of people already and she was amazed it hadn’t hurt me.
My dad told me stories later about how men would steal girls off of the ranches and force them to marry them. So you had to carry a gun and know how to use it. Because that’s just how it was. There weren’t police anywhere around to help; only guns.
Well… that’s the extent of all I really remember during those years.
Although we also would hang out a lot with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. I would argue with them a lot and they could be quite mean. One time I was sleeping over with my cousin and her brother came into the room that morning and laid in bed with us too. We then all got out of bed and headed to breakfast and my aunt later scolded me for having pee’d in bed.
I had absolutely not pee’d in bed. But no one believed me and from that day forward I had to sleep with a towel under me when I came over and also upside down from my cousin. It was so humiliating.
But these are all just trivial little banalities. Nothing monumental. Just little instances that eroded at my childhood happiness.
I remember vividly my mother pushing me away from her. I was a very affectionate child. I always wanted to be holding her hand or next to her, on her lap, hugging her. She didn’t like it at all and she would call me “ensimosa” and tell me to leave her alone. The word is akin to a word for being clingy and overly tactile. And she absolutely detested that quality about me.
But none of this is show stopping; nothing outrageous. Just the sad reality of a child no one really had any time for. I’m not sad about it. These things are what made me be the person I am now. So…..it is what it is. No use crying over it.
Though as a child I did cry a lot. I remember crying myself to sleep fairly often, even during the day. It was my coping mechanism. Still is I guess.
And it’s ok. I’m ok. Truly.