For the record, I was called the “cutest baby to ever exist”. Still, my birth almost came at the ultimate price. I was born on October 28, 1997 in North Carolina. I am my mother’s second child, 4 years younger than my older sister, Lucero. My mother is a strong woman, but a troublesome child like me always puts up a fight…even at birth. My mother tells me she nearly broke my father’s hand during contractions but was advised not to grasp anything too hard as it inhibits the birthing process. Fast forward a few hours and I was born. When my sister was born the doctors took her away to clean her. I was automatically put on my mother’s chest. She says that she looked at my face and all she could see was my father’s face as a baby. She explains to me that the feeling a mother gets after giving birth is an inexplicable feeling of happiness. The birth was 24 hours long.
A short time after I was born my mother, Rosa, continued to have contractions and she could only wonder if she was having another baby. It turns out that the placenta was never properly expelled. My mother was bleeding out and she feared the worst. She was rushed away so the proper procedures could be done. She tells me that the doctor began yelling at her, “You have a baby boy upstairs that needs you! Don’t give up on him!” She was given a shot that would essentially allow her to endure the pain of having the placenta scraped out. By the time the whole problem was resolved, almost all of her body’s blood had been drained. So you can say that my birth was quite an episode.
On the bright side, at least I had my looks. The nurses said “Normally if the baby is ugly we don’t say anything, but this baby is the cutest one we’ve seen yet” Apart from the situation from my mother, my birth was a success and I was healthy. I was pinkish-white and crying like a newborn should be. I also had blonde hair that I would continue to have throughout life except for the transition of the hair on my head to brown with limited blonde. Relatives and family friends would joke around saying that there is no way that I could be a product of my father. He is a tan Mexican man with dark hair and green eyes. Thinking about it now I have grown into his image. My eyes are now a green-brown variation, my nose is big like his (we joke about it sometimes), and people say we even walk the same. Still, I have lighter skin like my mother and her mother.
There was once a time as an infant when I cried and cried and no one knew why. My parents worried there was something wrong internally. They rushed me to the ER. Later it was discovered that the circulation was cut off from a hair or thread on my toe. It was cut off and I assume I got better, but we were sent to a specialist anyway to check for any permanent damage. As there were primarily only elders seen at this specialist’s office, once again all the patrons were taken aback by my baby beauty. This was just a story that it is constantly brought up for some reason at home and I find it quite an odd story.
My mom says I was an easy baby especially compared to how my sister was. I slept well, I ate well (for the most part), and I was active. Me being active would come to be shown in the adventures I would get to as a began to be able to walk. We lived in my grandmother’s home at that time that I still visit weekly. It feels like a second home or a sanctuary. My grandparents or as their grandchildren call them “Mami Rosa and Papi Hector” (the Queen and King of our dynasty), constantly remind me that I should feel at home when I’m there. That house is filled with great memories of my childhood and that may be the reason that I regularly have dreams that I’m being attacked by some villain or monster and the only safe place is the house. As soon as I could walk, I was getting into trouble. I spilled shampoo bottles down the tub drain (Dextor‘s Laboratory wannabe) and hid in clothes racks in stores. It was a fun time.
Around age 2-3 I watched primarily Sesame Street and Barney. Later at age 4, I became obsessed with Power Rangers. I’m not sure what exactly it is about the show that appealed to me. Maybe it was the colors, the action, or the concept of teamwork. I use to try to fight everyone after watching that show. I would try to fight my sister to no avail. When at school or the park, I would get a group of 6 or so (boys and girls) and say that five of us would be the power rangers and the other would be the villain that we fight. I recall getting in trouble for fake fighting although we never hurt each other…to an extreme. My adventure role-playing skills were and still are the best. I have always had a crazy imagination. Someone people have wild imaginations; well I have a rabid imagination. I could turn a stick into a wand, a sword, a staff, or spear. I would pretend the empty space behind our couch was a volcano and dramatically would fall in it. At times I would even pretend I got shot or stabbed and do a dying monologue related to the adventure I was pretending to be in. I even made myself cry real tears. I would be a great actor.
At this age I went to many different childcare programs. Often, I was with family or friends. Still, I have a vivid memory of being at several Head Start daycares. One was at a church and was called “His Kids”, we watched movies, ate snacks, and once again role-played using our imaginations. Another took place at a building called Heritage Hall, called “More at Four” I recalled going to the pool or going to movies. The last was at an apartment complex and was specifically for children of immigrants. My grandmother, Mami Rosa, worked there as a caregiver of the children. I recall going into her classroom with my older cousin, Martin, and sitting on the top bunk of a bunk bed covered with stuffed animals. It was the only time I’ve ever received special treatment. I also recall dressing up as Blue from Blue’s Clues for Halloween trick or treating at that program.
When I began kindergarten at Upward Elementary School, I was 6 rather than most kids who were 5 because of the age deadline. I don’t recall if I was nervous or excited. It was a big step though, as it was my first real step into education. My school taught kindergarten to 5th grade, meaning the ages ranged from 6 to 11. Luckily for me, my sister was in her last year when I first entered the school so I had at least one familiar face there with me. In addition, I had a couple more cousins there. I even had my father’s workplace only a fence jump away at a factory next to the school, which caused me some trouble.
I was always testing my limits, even in kindergarten. One time, my class was taken to the gazebo in the school garden which had a perfect view of my dad’s workplace. My father waved to me and I got very excited to know I had a family member so close to the prison I called school. Sitting on the wooden bench of the gazebo, I threatened to my teacher “I’m going to jump the fence and go with my dad.” She shook her head and slowly started getting closer to me in a manner a hunter would slowly approach its prey to prevent startling it. I started sliding down the bench further away from her. This continued until suddenly I felt a sharp pain go up my back emanating from my spine. I started screaming in pain. I could not even explain what was happening so they got my sister out of class and told her to console me. She eventually interpreted my babbling and realized the pain was coming from my bum. She had no other option then to look at my bare behind to find the source. She immediately found that I had a splinter the length of a toothpick sticking out of my pink cheek. Every time she attempted to pull it out I only felt more pain. I spent the rest of the day in pain; there was nothing anyone could do. The next morning I felt a dull pain, rather than a sharp one like before. I asked my mother what happened and she confessed that in the dead of night she went on a secret mission. With my sitter’s guidance, she used tweezers to remove the wooden shrapnel. For all I know, she could have been lying and the splinter is still in there, imbedded in a non painful position. I know that could happen because my older cousin, Martin, still has a piece of glass in his knee from his childhood (of course with an ugly scar). Still, I learned I have the potential to be a heavy sleeper sometimes and never to try to escape elementary school.
My anger began evolving as I was surrounded by other children. I was always a demonic child, but I never attacked strangers…until Easter of kindergarten. All children are given baskets and Easter eggs are strategically spread around the school campus, indoors and out. All students are let go at the same time and the race begins. The only prize is the candy in the eggs and the bragging rights of having the most eggs, which I was determined to have. Still, all missions will have opposition. This time the opposition came in the form of a 6 year old, redneck little boy, Blake. I was near the track when I leaned down to get a gold egg, when the contents of my basket fell out. I literally had too many eggs in my basket. As I was recovering from my fall, Blake swooped in to take advantage of my misfortune (which I now respect as it was a competition). For a split second, my emotions blended. First I felt confusion, then disbelief, then finally…anger. Red hot anger. My fists clenched, I jumped on his back. I used my weight to pull him to the ground and started pulling his hair and even smashing his head into the grass a few times. I’m not sure how much time passed, but I remember being hauled away over the shoulder of the gym teacher, kicking his stomach and punching his back all the way back to the principals’ office. My head pounded with anger. I don’t recall what discipline I received, but I knew I had the potential in me to be bad. A similar incident occurred at the park playground in which another little boy tried to take my toy, but he was not hurt. Neither was the kid at Easter. I only got into trouble two other times in all of elementary school. One for trying to leave class early and the other for laughing with my friend about how his neighbor peed her pants.
Anger wasn’t the only emotion I was feeling at this time. Like most families, my parents fought. Not physically, but verbally. My ears were constantly flooded by the arguing that echoed around our tiny house. I was scared to sleep alone. Embarrassingly enough, I slept in my sister’s room with her until around age 10. I believe it has actually helped our relationship. At the time like I mentioned, I was evil. I spit on her, stabbed her with pencils, and hit her in the head with a stapler. Still she always had my back. I have another vivid memory of sitting in my sister’s room in the dark. It was sometime around midnight. Our parents were yelling about bills or something of that nature. My sister had seen the worst of my dad’s anger, when he was drunk. By this time, he had stopped drinking as much. He never hit us, other than the occasionally spanking when deserved. I have heard stories of him getting in fights at family barbeques and shooting a gun into the sky outside when angry and drunk, a dangerous combination. At this time, I faced the wall and just started tearing up. I didn’t like hearing anyone yell, especially not my beloved parents. I saw their shadows pacing back and forth under the door. My sister turned over in the bed and I felt her cover my ears, she whispered to me. “It’s ok, it’s ok, just go to sleep” At times I think of this event and start to cry, like I am when I write this. I think of how strong my sister, Lucero, is. But even the strongest of us humans can’t avoid mental disorders. She suffers from major depression and Body Dismorphic Disorder. When I first learned that mental disorders can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, I immediately thought of the time I as a child, with my possessed like anger, hit her in the head with a stapler. I couldn’t help but think that her disorders were my fault.
Sometime in the early elementary years, my parents decided to travel back to our mother country Mexico, to visit family and ultimately allow my sister and I to become more I touch with our roots. I remember crossing the border. Because we are all American citizens, the process was as easy as entering a subway terminal in New York. Now I think about how many families have been divided by that barrier. We went to my father’s home state, Durango, first. I remember going to my Tio Abui’s ranch. It was a fairly modern house. His son, my cousin, had an Xbox. Instead of ants, the country had small scorpions crawling along the wall and floors. The sun was scorching constantly. I enjoyed the small community. During this time the film The Incredibles had just been released and I loved not only the idea of superheroes, but the concept of a family that looked out for each other. I remember the film being out because I would walk to the local shop across the street and buy little sweet breads that came with The Incredibles pencil toppers in the packages. I didn’t even like the bread but I wanted the topper.
I also had a lot of trouble learning to share in Mexico. My cousin, Aaron, was a little bit younger than me and was intrigued by my American Power Rangers toys. I was constantly being scolded by my parents for 1) not sharing and 2) actually physically punching him to keep him away from my toys. My time in Mexico all blended together into a few distinct memories. We went to a Mexican theme park and I nearly had a heart attack at age 8 on a roller coaster called “Crazy Mouse” which seemed as if it was going to go off the rails at every turn(which I wouldn’t doubt seeing as the ride was constantly creaking). I learned to say grape in Spanish as I was conditioned that if I wanted to buy a “paleta” from the local vendors that I must be able to ask for it myself. When the vendor asked “Que sabor?”(What flavor?), I would reply simple “uva” (grape). I scared a Chihuahua in a pizza shop and made it pee on the floor in a corner as well in Mexico. Next, I nearly drowned a puppy in a barrel of water not because I was evil, but because I wanted to teach it to swim. I also saw the “uglier part” of Mexico. The part with mud roads, porta potties, and flies….armies of flies. I particularly remember one nightmarish event when we left the truck doors open and when we returned to it, every surface was covered in flies. I recently asked my mother if she remembers that particular event and she replied, “Kids remember things differently.” When I thought about it, did that ever even happen? Or did my overactive imagination dramatize what I actually saw?
Physically, I was a late bloomer. I actually remember going to the doctor at around age 12, a little bit before middle school and him telling my mother that I was a late bloomer. I was a very picky eater then, not at all like I am now. I was a scrawny little kid, an easy prey for bullies. I temporarily attended the Boys and Girls Club, where my mother had once worked. I remember crying as soon as I saw the building in sight. I am very attached to my mother. When she would leave me at daycare, I would hit the door and cry. I never quite connected as much with my dad, he was a harsh man. The only times I felt like he cared about me was when he would take me to the flea market on the weekends and buy me used Power Rangers toys which I cherished so much. I actually wished I never gave those memories of my childhood away. Also, when he passed out because I started choking on a chicken bone and nearly died (I was always getting into live threatening situations like that…more later). I learned that he really cared when he was my hero from bullies. At the Club, we all had lockers that we could put our things in, one day I arrived late and was putting my things in one of the lower lockers. I finally found an empty one and put my things away. Before I could leave the room, these two older kids walked in and noticed the locker I put my things in. One said to me, “That’s my locker”. I was too scared to speak. Him and his friend laughed at me and took out my X-Men backpack and put it into the highest shelved locker, knowing well there was no way I could possibly reach it. I ran out as soon as I could, hoping to avoid any further conflict. I continued with my activities (Hell like always) and when my age group finished for the day we went to the locker room to get our things and get picked up. My father showed up and I was alone in the room without my bag. “Donde esta tu mochilla?” or “Where is your backpack?” I explained how the tyrants took control of my original locker and locked my belongings away in the highest tower. He thought for a moment and then without words, he got my bag from the high locker. He didn’t stop there though. He opened the bully’s locker which had no lock, took out his bag, and put it in a locker hidden in a corner on the other side of the room, a locker no one ever used. Then he found a lock on the floor and locked away the bully’s things. He looked at me and smiled. I felt connected. I felt cared for. I felt loved.
I’ve had my fair share of health endangering situations. I broke my collar bone doing a flip in gym in 5th grade. I dropped a few TVs on my head trying to move them myself. I choked on countless chicken bones. I locked myself in cars. I tried to swim in our kiddie pool alone, which somehow always had tadpoles days after we cleaned it. I got hit with a pool stick at the Club (which reminds me of my hatred for that place and the game billiards). I’ve fallen out of a moving car in a Target parking lot with a child on top of me (hes the one who opened the door). I’ve broken my wrist (and a few years later I accidentally broke someone else’s wrist in the same exact way). I got the swine flu when it was the “scariest disease of the time”, even though it felt like a simple cough (I’m pretty sure that doctor wasn’t even a real doctor). Yes. I am quite a handful. I never needed surgery though gladly.
It was odd transitioning from elementary school to middle school. I was a top dog in elementary school. I was one of the smartest (9th grade reading level, AIG class, Spelling Bee captain) and athletic (ran mile in under 8 minutes). Once again, I was one of the smallest in the grade. Middle school was a blur. I didn’t like it very much, which is good. I really wouldn’t have wanted to peak in middle school and I know some that did: dumb jocks. Although for some odd reason all of the football players were in AIG (Academically and Intelligently Gifted) classes with me. I tried to hang out with the “popular kids”, and then I realized how oblivious and vapid they were. I was bullied, kind of. Not physically but verbally. Most of it was my small size and clothing choices (which is an odd thing for boys to bully for). In my defense, none of my clothes fit either because 1)I was outgrowing them, 2) they were on sale at Goodwill(which everyone seems to love now, dumb hipsters), 3) or they were too large of hand-me-downs from my 6 ft. tall cousin, Martin. I especially remember being teased about online bought glasses I had to put rubber bands around to cover the feminine style and short shorts that I had to wear for gym because I had nothing else. I first experienced racism in a school setting, oddly enough from the other Mexicans. Apparently I was too white to hang out with them. Here is a story about a young boy outcast from his own kind.
Chocolate chips from that cookie I just ate at lunch still melted on my tongue. The sun was radiant. To most kids the bright light and warm temperature during recess would only add to the experience, but to me I could only think of the sunburn and tomato-red appearance that would inevitably come. My dad taught me to be an optimist, so I chose to still take advantage of this temporary academic break and have fun with my peers. My best friend went to play soccer with the other Latino boys. I thought, “I love soccer. I’m going to go show off my skills!” I ran over to the large field where the game was taking place, a layer of sweat already dripping down my face. Teams were being chosen and I wondered whose team I was on. I turned to the captain of the soccer team and surprisingly asked, “Whose team am I on?” He gave me a standoffish glance and replied, “Mexicans only.” Confused I rebutted with, “But I am Mexican.” At this point, our conversation had become quite the spectacle. He laughed with his minions and said, “You don’t look like it, and it doesn’t matter because we already chose teams.” They immediately forgot my existence and began the game. My best friend gave me a shrug that said, “What do you expect me to do?” and continued playing.
I don’t fit in. My last name makes me an outcast from non Hispanics and my appearance made me a pariah amongst my own. At times I feared going into locally owned Mexican stores. Not because they were scary, but because I thought they were going to kick me out for “not being brown enough.” It seems absurd now, but at the time it was one of my greatest fears. Of course I’d experienced racism, but never openly from those with whom I was supposed to feel at home. I would cry to my mom and tell her whilst choking on my tears, “It would be easier if we were white, everything would be easier.” She would console me, saying that those boys were closed minded and one day I would help destroy stereotypes by being an educated and successful, proud Mexican boy.
All the school awards I’ve accumulated along the years show progress to that prophecy my mother proclaimed. I use personal experiences and news stories about ignorant citizens shouting at innocent old Hispanic ladies to get out of their country as fuel to my efforts to be a household name. I strive to be someone that helps unite. I hope that one day people will stop using color as an excuse for hatred and rather respect the person wearing the skin as a fellow human being.
My depression started worsening in middle school. Partially due to the teasing and partially from puberty I suppose. It must have started earlier though; I just didn’t know it was depression. I recall having a “mid-life crisis” at age 10, now I know what it actually was. Also, scary situations involving suicide made me realize that what I did had impacts on others. I also had my first real crushes on girls in middle school (I had a girlfriend in elementary school, but she was too clingy). Long story short, this girl (lets call her Sally) I liked was friends with one of my guy friends (lets call him Bob). She confided in him and told him all her secrets. I would text him while texting her and ask him what I should say to impress her and it usually worked. She posted online that she was moving and I was very sad about it. I asked her about it because at this point we were somewhat close. She told me her father had a job opportunity on the West Coast. I asked Bob why she was moving and he said it was a secret. Eventually I did the whole “you can trust me” thing to convince him to tell me. He eventually told me it was because she had a life threatening brain injury and she had to go have surgery. I must have forgotten that it was a secret, or maybe I thought our friendship was better than it was, because I gave my good wishes to Sally. She eventually found out that Bob told me and was angry with him. Bob texted me specifically, “If I lose her tonight, I lose my life tonight”. My heart broke. To think that I would be the reason someone lost their life was emotionally and mentally devastating. I panicked and told my mother and she said not to worry, kids are bluffers. I even went as far as to text his sister to watch out for him. Thank goodness he was a bluffer and we stayed friends. Still, things were never the same and I never trusted “friends” as much. I felt bad for being a busybody and for going back on a promise to keep a secret. Now I keep as far away from secrets as I can and if I must be confided in, I make sure that it never spills from my mouth.
Middle school ended three years later, an odd experience. I found a true group of reliable friends that would be going to the Early College with me. I had to part ways with my best friend since 1st grade. We tried to keep in touch, but contact dwindled out. High school was oddly enough less scary than middle school. Early College was a school that requires an application and dedication to get into. I knew that my fellow classmates would not be the same vapid and oblivious kids I knew previously. After 4 years, I can say that although extremely academically and mentally challenging, this school has some of the most interesting kids in the state. Our school could have an after school teen drama comedy show and get amazing ratings. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of putting a 14 year old in a college style classroom with full grown college students was terrifying. Of course I would get the occasional odd stares from 27 year olds in the classrooms, but I liked the feeling of being a young overachiever. I had somewhat accomplished my childhood dream, being a child genius (Dextor’s Laboratory, Jimmy Neutron, Baby Geniuses, etc.).
Like mentioned before, a program like this does not come without stress. The teachers are crazy, the work is intense, and you can forget about having a social life. The semesters go by fast and my hardest classes were my first ones. That was probably just because I was getting used to college classes. My school didn’t have conventional things like sports teams and dances, but they really try. I honestly think it was better in my earlier years. Obviously, I didn’t have the usual high school experience. I did have a job though. I helped my uncle with his lawn care business. It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done. At least I now know that I don’t want a physical job like that one. When I went to drivers ed, I saw some of my old middle school classmates….dumb as always. I first drove during my driver’s ed course and I nearly died (again). I still don’t have my license. When I went to take my driver’s test, the woman at the DMV emotionally scarred me for life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my license. Most schools have career days, we have to do an extensive research project about a possible future career every year excluding senior year (we do our senior projects during our junior year). Since I skipped a grade, I have had to do one of those projects 4 years consecutively. Freshman=Soccer Player, Sophomore=Journalist, Junior=Veterinarian, Senior=Filmmaker. All are very different. Like most humans, my mind is constantly changing. Filmmaker or actor is what I’ve always wanted to be but I was too embarrassed to choose it for those projects because I knew teachers and parents would tell me “That’s unrealistic”. I’ve decided I’m going to do what I want for a change.
I’ve managed to control my anger a little bit better. Although, when I do get very angry I start to creepily laugh. I think it has something to do with my bottling up my emotions and them coming out at random times. My depression is about the same but I have learned ways to diminish it. I actually went to one therapy session when my anger was at its peak, but I didn’t want to go back because I knew it was expensive and it would cost my parents money. “I’ll just figure it out on my own”, I thought. I’ll probably get more therapy eventually. I’ve grown into my body more since puberty. I’m still scrawny looking but I am about normal height now. Sometimes my friends tell me that I’m getting too tall and I just want to hug them. I’ve often described my life as a comedy sitcom. If it were, then a season finale would have been this year, my sister Lucero’s college graduation.
The last time my sister and I were at a graduation together, it was her high school one. I nearly missed hearing her name being called because my cousin, Martin, wanted to leave the stadium to go get a soccer ball. Spanish last names usually start with an ending letter meaning they are called nearly last at graduations. I can’t blame him for being bored. Now after lots of money in loans, she was graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with a Journalism major.
The day went fine. We did encounter some problems, like always. We couldn’t find the stadium. It started raining (at an outdoor graduation). Of course, dramatic family members had to make the graduation dinner at a public setting much more difficult that it had to be. They loudly insulted the workers, spit out their food, and just kept whining. I felt so bad for my sister. This was supposed to be her day and it seemed as though the odds weren’t in her favor. At her last graduation (High School), someone was arrested in front of our house. Maybe graduations are bad luck in our family.
Later, our aunts and grandmother apologized for being difficult. We still came together to celebrate this momentous occasion in my sister’s life. Events like this go to show the family bond in the Mexican culture, as well as their attitudes and tempers. The bond could be shown by something as small as this or by the story of my uncles. Long ago, when my Papi Hector was still in Mexico, his family got into a feud with another family. There was a shootout and the youngest brother on my grandpa’s side, Raul, was caught in the crossfire. To retaliate, my Papi Hector’s other brother wiped out nearly all of the other family’s men. He avoided prison, until he married a drug dealing American woman and was arrested for that. He spent his last days in prison. Recently, all of the family came together for the funeral.
I’ve learned something about the difference in cultures whilst living a Mexican culture in an American setting. In American culture, the kids spent 18 years under their parent’s roof. They slowly start demanding control. They start to drive, get a job, and spend more time away from home. I cannot count how many times I have heard a white, American child say “I hate my parents, I can’t wait to leave home”. They want to go to college. They want to go to a college far away from home. I’ve heard three times in a week “When I turn 18, I’m going to the furthest college from my parent’s house. I’ve spent enough time with them. I need my space”
In Mexican culture, the kids grow a close relationship with their parents. We spend more time with them. Most Latino kids either get a job to help pay bills after high school. If they do go to college, it is usually a school close to their home town. We see our parents every day. If we don’t see them that day, then we call them. There is a constant line of communication open. We can rely on our family for help. One time, my sister was home from college and mentioned that she missed my grandmother’s arroz con leche (a Mexican dessert consisting of rice and condensed milk). My Mami Rosa heard about it somehow (word travels fast in the Latino community) with her wolf like hearing and rushed off to the store in that moment to buy the ingredients to make it. I’m proud to have the family I have and be the individual I am.