Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My earliest memory is from the house we lived in, right off the Harbor freeway at the Florence exit in south Los Angeles. OK, before you jump to any conclusions, as you do, we did not live under the freeway. Just 2 houses away from it.

But, I digress. I was standing in my crib late one night and I was flicking the light switch on and off. It was hilarious. Hilarious because the other 4 people sleeping in my room (yes, everybody, 5 people sleeping in a room, how very unoriginal) didn't know what the heck was going on. I laughed and laughed, until my mom came in and smacked my hand and laid me back down in my crib as I continued to giggle. "Go to sleep" she growled.

Once mom left, I stood back up and continued my act only to be received by more groans and anger from my captive audience which, by the way, consisted of my 3 older sisters and my grandmother. Oh but, here she comes again, and she is not amused! I could here those staccato footsteps coming across the house (probably only 10 or 12 steps, small house you know) with rapid determination. "Smack". A reprimand followed, I can't remember what it was (for God's sake, I was only about 2, what do you people expect?). I do remember that it was forced through clenched teeth. The crib suddenly jerked as I stumbled back down onto my bottom, watching the light switch get farther and farther out of my reach. Mom had pulled the crib away from the wall and shut out the light with a quick smack against the wall. I can still hear those staccato footsteps as they disappeared to the other side of the house.

There were 9 people living in our house at that time, 6 kids, one grandmother and 2 parents. It's important to note that we were Catholic. The house was 2 bedrooms and there was a small room at the back of the house, I think it was some sort of laundry room or something like that. Anyway, it was turned into a makeshift room with a trundle bed for my 2 brothers. All the girls and grandma slept in the second bedroom and mom and dad slept in the front bedroom.

My dad worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs at a time to take care of all of us. The jobs that I can remember he had were butcher, janitor for a doctor's office and for a print shop. Sometimes he would take a few of us with him and I thought it was very exciting. We would take some of the candy from the doctor's office candy jar. OK, here is the real scary part, we would take the used syringes out of the trash cans (yes people, there were no bio-hazard locked containers for such nasty items back then) and we would take out the used, bent needle and keep the syringe part so we could take it home and play doctor. Wow!

My mom also worked as a cocktail waitress and later as a bartender. Now that I think about it, how the hell did these people find time to make so many babies? They even had one more after me? Oh, I forgot, we were Catholic....and Mexican! That's equivalent to rabbits on crack.

I hope that was enough to satisfy your need for stereotypes. Let's move on...

My life couldn't be any more different now. I live in the OC, or as we Angelenos like to call it, "Behind the Orange Curtain". I am married to a gringo, I have 2 kids and a pretty large house and I can't hear the freeway when I lay my head down at night. We both are currently unemployed and the kids visit their grandparents at their private country club in Palm Desert.

So I know what you are thinking, I sold out for the big house. First off, my house is not that fabulous and I would never be allowed on the Real Housewives of Orange County, besides, my sisters would drive out here and beat the hell out of me if that ever happened.

Yes, I married a man whose parents had money and lived on a private country club in the "Desert", that's how we OC people refer to the place where we golf, tan and spa! My husband had a skyrocketing career with a Fortune 100 company and he took me on lots of tropical vacations every year. So I married him! OK, don't be rude, I married him because I could see under that pompous, Republican, crusty outer shell, there was soft hearted, loving, loyal human being who let me be as crazy as I am. No excuses.

But, all the material aspirations came to a grinding halt, for a myriad of reasons, or as George Lopez would say "I can't have nuthin"!

Out of 15 years of marriage, 12 have been a struggle due to health, unemployment, financial and marital challenges. And we are still here, still together. Together because we want to be. Don't get me wrong, there have been many times when both of us have contemplated throwing in the towel because it has been hard, harder than I could have ever imagined.

Now we live the stereotypical life of every other person who worked hard for a nice place to live, financial security, and good medical care. It's all gone, no security, no assurances that we will have this place to live in and no promises that we can make to our children for their college education. We can promise them that no matter what, we will do everything to keep them safe, healthy and loved.

1 comment:

  1. I remember my childhood. I'm a Latina too. I grew up in Puerto Rico with blue skies, sand and lots of mosquitoes! Ah, the memories... Now we need to look at things with a little bit of humor as we struggle with this economy and life. We all have challenges that we need to overcome. We always tend to think that our problems are huge and we forget that out there there are families that are in worst situations and still look at life we hope and a smile. I'm proud of you Julie, for writing about your life and struggles. There is light at the end of the tunel for all of us!. Love you.