Sunday, September 18, 2011

The River of My Life Part 1

Back when school first began, we had an awesome training. We were all asked to think about what three things make us who we are.  These three things were supposed to be part of our river of life.  I followed directions and selected the three things that shaped the person that I am today. Others chose to share their river of life which to me, was more profound that just selecting three things that stand out. That was more difficult if you ask me. So here goes.

I was born to parents that had immigrated to California from the Philippines. My father came over first in 1973 (if not 1971).  He came over to work. He had an uncle that was already in California so that is who he lived with and that (I believe) is who gave him his first job here. He saved up money in order to bring my mother over.  They had met while my uncle (the second oldest boy in my mom's family) was at college.  He was one of my uncle's flatmates and my mom was visiting when they met.  They began to exchange letters.  She was at nursing school.  I have read and seen some of the old letters/photos they exchanged with one another. They really seemed to be in love.  When they married, it was a civil ceremony.  No big white dress and no fancy party. The pictures I had seen were just of  the two of them signing papers on a folding table and raising their right hands in front of the official.
Soon my mother came over from the Philippines in 1974.  I was born in 1975.
 They were renting a room from a woman who had a son. She came to be known as my "Lola Lita".  Her son was like a big brother to me.  We played together and we would go places together like one big happy family.
Here we are at the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk.  We lived with them until 1978.
In 1978, my parents bought their first and only home.  Yes, they still live there today. It still has the same rug (I think), some of the same windows (!), definitely the same drapes, and definitely the same insulation!  I guess both of my parents worked at the time.  I can't remember where my dad was working at the time, possibly at the winery.  My mom has only worked at one place ever, a small electronics company in town.
I started elementary school in 1980. I didn't attend my local elementary school (which was a block away from my house).  I went to the elementary school that the children of my babysitter went to.  And on my first day of school? My babysitter took me. I don't remember if I cried or anything but I do remember my teacher trying to make me write with my right hand. I emphatically told the woman that I was quite capable of writing my name with my other hand and I showed her.  I had been writing for a while.  I remember coming across some lists I had made when I first began to write.  No wonder I still love lists and writing. :)
I stayed at that school through 2nd grade.  For 3rd grade, I was sent to my local elementary school.  The student population was very different compared to my first school.  This new school was predominantly Mexican and to top it all off, my parents had put me in bilingual education! They wanted me to learn Spanish yet they never taught me Tagalog. I had been to the Philippines once over winter break when I was in Kindergarten.  I can't find any pictures from when I was in the Philippines so I guess those photos got left at the house. Oh well.  I am the only one out of the three children who got to meet both of our maternal grandparents. Our paternal grandparents had passed away when my dad was still a kid. 
Elementary school was rather uneventful. School came easy to me.  Unlike most children, I didn't go outside to play much.  I spent my afternoons in front of the tv or reading.  Books were an escape for me. They still are.  I had friends in the neighborhood but my parents weren't big on me playing with other kids. Go figure.  I got straight A's and my parents NEVER attended an Open House or any parent conference in ANY of my years of schooling.  It bothered me that they never attended.  I remember putting in all this effort the day of the Open Houses to create a nice project and then to have no one from my immediate family see it.  I remember telling my mom that it was Open House and how I wanted to go but she didn't.  She was always too tired from work. 
My sister was born in 1983 making me an only child no more.  I can't remember how I felt about having a little sister. I can tell you that I had to help take care of her though.  Three years later, our brother was born and so the torture began.  My sister has fond memories of torturing our brother. Feeding him ants, having him dress up in our mom's clothes when she had to work overtime, cleaning the kitchen floor with his back, etc. Sigh.
I began jr. high in 1987.  Jr. high is a total and complete blur. I remember my parents expecting me to walk to school. It was a 3 mile walk (round trip!). Fortunately, I had a friend who lived on the corner whose brother would drop us off and pick us up. Thank goodness. I had to walk a couple times and it wasn't fun at all. I joined Leadership in 8th grade.  I remember getting into heavy metal then.  Guns n' Roses and Def Leppard were my bands of choice.  I wore concert tees that I ordered through the mail and I wore tore up, bleached jeans too! No pictures from that time period (unfortunately). That would have been nice to see. :)  One thing I did remember about jr. high, is this was when I began pen palling.  I don't still write to anyone that I wrote to in middle school but I do still keep in touch with some pals I wrote to during high school.
I can't remember if it was when I began jr. high or near the end of elementary school that I became a latch-key kid and had to take care of my brother and sister after school.  I remember stopping by the baby sitter's house to take them home.  We of course spent the afternoons indoors. Sure we had a backyard but it was a dirt backyard that just had fruit trees.  And I had homework to do.  Now that I'm thinking about it, I think maybe it was jr. high when I first began to pick them up at the babysitter.  My sister had already started elementary school in 1988 and our brother was nearing 2. 
The babysitting continued when I went onto high school. Fortunately, the high school was a shorter walk.
I had been wanting to be more active since elementary school. I could never do any afterschool activities because I always had to go home and take care of my brother and sister. Yes I would complain that I didn't have them so why should I have to take care of them.  Apparently it was my obligation as the older sibling.  There are many things I missed out on while growing up because I had to take care kids.  There were things that we did without our parents knowing because I had to take care of kids.
Remember how I said my parents NEVER attended an Open House or a parent conference when I was going to school? Well, all of a sudden, they were interested in attending Open Houses for my siblings.  They were still working the same amount but for some reason my mom wasn't as tired.  She would even attend Open House when they were in high school.  What changed? Who knows.  All I can tell you is that my upbringing was very different from my siblings.
I basically raised myself.  I excelled in school and if anyone cared, no one showed it.  I did it all on my own.  I missed out on many things because of the parents I was stuck with.  One year I was asked to attend a science camp over the summer but my parents would have to pay a certain amount.  If I had to get them involved in anything, I knew it wasn't going to happen.  I remember my teacher even coming to my house to ask them to let me go and what a great opportunity it would be, etc.  What kind of parent deprives their children from great opportunities? I know. The kind that I got did.  Nothing I ever did was good enough.  I won first place in the spelling bee when I was in the 5th grade.  The following year, I only got second place and was asked, 'Why didn't you win?'   They were lucky to have a kid who didn't get into trouble and was responsible. I had to be. I didn't have a choice.
Looking back, I didn't have many choices.  It was their way or no way at all.  That's how I lived.  I could forget about anything fun.  No sleepovers at my house much less at friend's houses.  I couldn't even go over to friend's houses to play for a little bit.  I had to go straight home.
Maybe that's why I'm a Kindergarten teacher. I get to play for most of the day with other kids and there's no one to tell me that playtime is over.
Stay tuned for part 2:  The adult years. 


  1. Nice to read about all about how to came to be you ;) You have done very well for yourself. Thanks for sharing!

  2. We don't always get dealt the best parents, but it is awesome to know that you grew up into a lovely woman despite their shortcomings. :)

  3. One of my best friends growing up originated from the Philippines. In fact we are still friends today. Her father was a WWI hero - last name Villamor. she was born in this country.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I always find these kinds of postings very interesting. Just how people get to where they are today is fascinating.

    Since this is part 1 - I guess there will be more. Look forward to reading it.

  4. I always say you can't pick your family. My aunt raised us weird like that too. My older cousin got the car, pager, job. My sister and I didn't get to work or go on dates or anything like that. It was weird.

  5. Well, that explains a lot of the resentment you have towards your parents! I wouldn't have the best feelings either.
    As an only child and latch-key kid, I can't imagine missing out on things because of siblings. I only missed out on things because we were poor or I was in day care.
    You turned out to be a great woman, though!

  6. Thank you for sharing your past with us. I knew bits and pieces from talking to you - but not everything.


Hey everyone,
Just wanted to thank you for taking the time out to leave me a comment. Happy reading!