Sunday, August 16, 2009

Life Starts Now

So, I've got two cousins starting at a university next week. How many is that now?  Nearing 10 who have graduated from college in my family, and I can tell you I never imagined such a thing.  There are families who have humble beginnings, and there are families for whom survival was an enormous struggle.  We fell into both categories, I think.  Life after my grandfather's death was the struggle, and I know many of us can easily recall the tough times that befell us.  But we always seem more likely to talk about the fun times we managed to create within those periods of turmoil.  

My memories . . . 

Summer days at home with Sandra, Sarah, and Lonnie.  Mike and I being sent to Pace Grocery on our bikes to buy Jolly Rancher sticks and Kool-Aid packets for everyone with the chingos of change in our pockets.  

Playing Crazy 8's by candlelight when Sylvia, Jenn, and Johnny lived with us.  The candlelight was NOT for ambiance . . . 

Hearing the knock at the door and then Rey and Rick Amador's voices, "Michaelllllll, Michellllllle . . ."  Rushing to get dressed so we could go sit in the back of Rey's dad's baby blue truck and make our plans for the day.  And so we could hear Rey tell us about everything we said, "I knew before you . . . "

Sitting outside at night.  All of us sprawled at my grandmother's feet on the sidewalk still warm from the day's sun.  Talking about nothing and everything and watching the cars go by.  

Egging Campos Revival.  Enough said. 

Eating G.W. Junior's on special nights at our big table with Sarah and Sandra and Lonnie. 

Waiting for Preston Gilbo the Third to show up at our house.  He was my first true love.  He just didn't know it.  

Racing in Henry's car . . . going so fast that I became furious and slammed my raspa into the ground when we finally made it home.  Of course, they all laughed at me.  

Going to Pace to watch Sandra play volleyball.  Sitting in the bleachers and playing cash register with the silver bolts in the bleachers.  Seeing a high school girl show Cleo a condom and wondering if it was an inflatable raft . . . 

Sitting in the back seat of Lonnie's blue car with Michael the day Sandra decided to go joy-riding in it while he played basketball at Russell.  Smiling the entire time.  Especially when she decided to tempt fate and drive PAST Russell to see if he noticed us.  He did.  

Watching Cleo read the telephone book while she sang, painfully off-key, "You Needed Me." 

Late at night, a party at our house, Sandra sitting on the washing machine and singing drunkenly, "What's the glory of living? Doesn't anybody ever stay together anymore?" 

Prom.  Seeing my gorgeous aunts in their princess dresses get whisked away to the ball. 

Saturday morning MANDATORY CLEANING BOOT CAMP run by Sandra.  Mike and I polishing Mom's crystal knick-knacks in VERY bad moods.  Sandra kicking Sara's door to get her to wake up and help. Never worked.  

Getting my hair brushed by Lonnie when he stayed home with Dad.  He was so gentle, so positive, so loving.  So bad at it.  

Watching Sara get ready to cheer at football games. The way she applied blue eyeshadow was an art. 

Sitting outside with Sandra while she talked to Farmer, who'd shown up at the crack of dawn from the mental hospital down the street for a cup of coffee.  Listening to him tell us over and over how he cracked his skull while chasing a squirrel on the roof. 

My first day of school.  Lonnie and Sarah and Sandra drove me on their way to school in Lonnie's blue car.  Sandra walked me to my classroom, and there I met Iris Aguilar.  We locked hands almost instantly.  

We've been lucky.  For even though God saw fit to give us our share of trials, he also saw fit to equip us with our legendary senses of humor.  And he made sure we knew how to love. 

These kids starting school, they won't know the tough times we knew.  There is no more Pace Grocery.  The house on Washington street not ours anymore.  G.W. Junior's closed long ago. Lonnie's blue car is probably rusted junk in some old yard.  But they should know their own senses of humor come from our rich history - from our determination to laugh no matter how much we wanted to cry.  They should know that watching them excel is the purest form of joy for us.  And for me especially - the oldest of the cousins.  The one who held and rocked and and fed and changed a good number of them and who loves them with a very special love. 

And they should know that no matter how much they grow or how far they go, we will always, always, always be here . . .  to make fun of them.  

“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” 
-George Eliot