My Chronologic Life:
I was born in Houston, Texas, to John and Sandra, a bartender and a nurse (LVN at the time). We lived in a garage apartment until I was about one and my brother was born and then we moved in with my mother’s parents.
My father is the oldest of four children. His mother’s line is from Texas as far as I am aware. My father’s father’s family is from southern Mexico, but I’m not sure how far back.
My mother is the fourth of seven children. Her parents are both from Monterey, Mexico and moved to the US as a married couple in their 20s. My grandmother had spent one year when she was 15 years old in San Antonio, Texas. She attended a catholic school and noted that America was worse off then Mexico because it was during the depression and there were food rations but that didn’t happen in Mexico.
So on my mother’s side, I am second generation American, and on my father’s side I’m not actually sure. I say that I am 5th generation because I know at least 5 generations back, but before that, I’m not sure where they are from.
To me, I’m an American.
When I was 3 years old, I started preschool. During this year my father took at trip to DC to look for work and possibly move our family there. He came back broke and had wasted the money that my parents had saved for a downpayment on a home. He also cheated on my mother and I told her because I was a child and I did not and still do not keep secrets. They divorced.
When I was 4, my brother started preschool and I went to Prekindergarten. He wasn’t ready for school (he was throwing up each day) and my mother decided to give him another year at home. In my mind, I didn’t want him fall behind so I took it upon myself to teach him the lessons I would learn in school each day.
During this year, I also took a test to attend the Magnet program at River Oaks Elementary which I remember vividly. The test was administered by the Vice Principle, Mr Talbot. and I remember the questions being easy and thinking I nailed it. The questions were about letters, numbers, shapes and colors. All simple, but remember I was 4.
Also when I was 4, we had a house fire at house where we lived with my grandparents. It was salvageable, but we had to moved out while it was being fixed, and we never moved back in. Instead my mother, brother and I got a 2 bedroom apartment and for the first time I got my own bed with my very own bed sheets!
At 5 years old, I started Kindergarten at River Oaks Elementary. This school is located in the richest neighborhood in Houston. Ted Cruz lives there now. Bush has a house there. Muhammad Ali was denied when trying to buy a home there, no other reason than racism. Yet here I was at 5, riding the yellow school bus everyday past the gates on to Kirby Drive past all the mansions to my new school. On the first day, my father drove behind the bus the entire way and met me at school to take me to my classroom. (My father never left me and my brother, he was alway present even though my parents divorced and they were “on and off again” many times until I was about 12 years old.)
At this school, I realized the differences between the races. I knew I was Mexican, I knew they were white. I knew they didn’t like us, but I didn’t really understand why. There were also a few black kids at the school, but not many. There was only one other girl that was Mexican and looked like me, but I learned very quickly that she was half white and choose to be that side of her. She didn’t like me and literally told me not to sit next to her anymore.
I was the poorest kid in the class. It was obvious. This class had “Nap Time,” which was a new concept to me, we didn’t take naps in my previous school and now we were to spend an hour after lunch sleeping in sleeping bags. They even gave all kindergartners two lockers, one for the backpack and books and the other for the sleeping bags. I was the only kid in the class without a sleeping bag. Instead I had two towels, I laid one down to sleep on and used the other as a blanket. I don’t remember if I had a pillow or not. I hated nap time.
Also when I was 5, one of my aunts stole our only car and wrecked it one night after drinking with my mother at our home.
In my first 5 years, we had so many set backs, the divorce, the fire, the wrecked car, but the silver lining was that I was going to be able to change all that by going to the “white” school.
So in my kindergarten class, we had a collection of Mercer Meyer books. There were about 25 kids in the class and each week we took one book home to read. I loved them. After school each day, I would sit on my stool next to my grandmother’s rocking chair and read to her while my mom was at work. My grandmother didn’t speak english very well so at the same time I was learning to read, I was also teaching her. Often, I would have a question about a word and neither one of us knew so we had to figure it out.
In 1st grade I made my first friend. His name was Gabriel and he was Mexican like me, but he was a grade below me and so I only saw him on the bus before and after school. The 45 minute ride home was my favorite time of the day. The bus dropped me off at my grandma’s house where I would wait until my mom would get off work and take me and my brother home. So even though we had moved out, I still saw my grandma every day almost and I spent the most time with her.
When I started first grade at River Oaks, my brother started Kindergarten at the neighborhood school because he didn’t get into the program that I had gotten into. We had sibling rivalry, but really I wanted him to get the same tools I got. I didn’t want a stupid brother, so I remember being very hard on him and trying to teach him all the time. A year later, when he was in 1st grade and I was in 2nd, he joined me at River Oaks.
Also in 1st grade, something crazy happened. I was six years old and was curious about the differences between girls and boys. I knew the physical differences, that my brother had a penis and I didn’t. But I didn’t know anymore than that and so I was talking about it with a girl in my class at school. We were wondering where girls peed from. A simple question we thought and we wanted to go investigate. So we went into the bathroom to try to look at each other peeing. Of course we were caught and my mother received a call at home. My mother’s reaction to this was to have a family conversation. She talked to me and my brother about sex. She drew a picture of a boy and a girl. She said that boys have penises and girls have vaginas which is like a hole for the penis. And they fit together and that’s how babies are made. She also said it was for adults to do only and that even then, you shouldn’t do it unless you are ready to have a baby, because that’s what happens. Then, she said that since it’s for adults, a lot of parents don’t want their kids to know about it. So we weren’t allowed to talk about it at school with anyone, unless we were already sure that they knew what it was. My mom was very open and honest about things which made me feel like an adult. Learning about sex at 6 years old didn’t make me go out and have sex, it gave me the knowledge to make better choices and be more aware of my surroundings.
My first couple of years at the school were good, I didn’t have any friends except Gabriel. The girl’s mom from that incident probably told her to stay away from me too. I just focused on school and spent my recess time playing in the dirt. Literally, at school they built this huge sandbox called the “Sand Lake.” It even had a water faucet so that we could make rivers. It was amazing, but messy.
I also developed a friendship with the janitors at the school. They had a vending machine in their break area that sold RC Cola for 25 cents and after school on the way the buses, I would pass by to buy one. This wasn’t open to the students, but they were cool with me and it made me feel special.