I am about 6 years old and living
in our second home across from the vacant lot in Tia Juana.
This is a story of a typical non-school day but with father's
I awake in the morning to the roosters
crowing at the Anez's home down the street. Every house
had a chicken coop behind it. We did and Dad had three egg-layers
that survived as long as they lay. Get up and go to the
bathroom and brush the sink with my toothbrush. Walk out
and Mom smells my mouth and says go back and do it right
this time. My brother Bill has been up.
We sit at the kitchen table and Mom
sets in front of us a plate of fried eggs, platanos and
goat cheese with a slice of fried spam. Hmmmm. I steal my
brother's milk while he is distracted talking to Mom. (In
later years I always stole my sister's milk which was made
from powdered KLIM)
Dad left for work an hour earlier.
Bill goes his own way as he is three years older than me.
Back to the bedroom where I pull on my shorts with suspenders,
slip a slingshot into my back pocket, a couple of marbles
in the side pocket and a pocket knife that I have hidden
from my parents.
Out the back door and whistle to
Spotty, our hound, and I head out to the vacant lot where
I see Jules Lang, Mike Peters, Palmer Bazemore and Magarita
Anez on the swings. The gang is gathering. These are some
of my best friends and Magarita was my very best girl friend
as she could burp on demand as well as I could. She could
make those big loud, single burps, the long drawn out burp
and then burp continuously with the intake as well as exhaled
There are a set of swings in the
lot which serves as the camp play ground. We swing as far
as we can back and forth and at the apex of the forward
swing; we spit a hocker and see who can reach the farthest.
We take turns until we are bored. You see, to be a good
hocker spitter you don't put the glob at the front of your
mouth and then spit -- that's the girl's way. Boys set the
glob just back front the tip of their tongue which is slightly
curled back and then use a puff of air to eject the glob
at a great velocity and so you get a neat sound as well
as distance. We are all good at it.
We head over to the Jimmie McCormick’s
house to see if the Guayabas are ripe yet. Then the mangos
next door which we discover are just turning yellow inside
and we climb the tree and pull and eat them in the tree.
So good except that the white sap that slowly oozes from
the end where pulled from the branch will cause impetigo
if it gets on your cheek. (Mom always applied a pink soothing
Calamine Lotion which worked to heal it) We walk down the
street checking out the Coconut palms along that street
because that's where the biggest and best ones are. We find
some nice big ones and I shinny up the palm -- it is difficult
but the coconuts are the best and I am able to twist off
three or four. We don't have machetes at this age but we
have found that the iron shoe scrapers that are anchored
to the cement outside the entrances to the old houses on
stilts have a sharp enough edge to split the husks and so
we each pound away and pull the tough husk off the nuts.
Now, my little pocket knife comes to use and we dig out
the eyes of the nuts and drink the nice sweet milk -- oh
We crack the hulls and using a piece
of the husk as a scraper, scrape out and eat the tender
coconut meat. Delicious.
The rainy season is ending and we
head out to the dredge. That is what we called the undeveloped
land between the homes and the office compound. The staff
school and all the houses on either side of it including
the new country club had have not been built at this time
in. The dredge was sandy soil with razor grass and mesquite.
No trees. It contained pools of water that collected from
the rain and they were our objective. We waded out into
the pools which came to our knees to hunt Bull-Frog tadpoles
which we caught by pinning them to the bottom of the pools
with our feet and then reaching down and picking them up
-- they were very large.
We tired of that and someone found
a pile of crap -- no restrooms for the workers in this country.
We had a stick and turned over the pile and the maggots
rolled out squirming and we gathered around and watched.
Back to the camp. We found some nails
and placed a few out in the street and then sat in a line
on the curb and watched cars drive by and every now and
then they would pick up a nail and we all laughed and ran
off. It is getting hot and we find a sun-blacked pan-caked
body of a huge toad in the road and so does Spotty who runs
over and in-spite of my protests proceeds to roll on the
smelly carcass. The carcass kind of skitters across the
road as it has been baked hard by the beating sun.
We stop by Jule's house and find
that his mother is baking Cinnamon rolls and we beg and
each of us receive one. Heaven.
It is getting on towards noon and
we all split up heading home for lunch and a siesta. Dad
comes home from work at noon and we all sit down at the
dining room table for lunch. Its baked Red Snapper that
Mom bought off the fish-truck that we heard going through
camp that morning. “Camarones... Camarones...”
The drivers would holler and you could see the various fish
packed in ice in the back of the truck and one of the men
in back would hold up a big Red Snapper for the mother's
to see as they drove down the street. We also had stewed
tomatoes and baked scalloped potatoes --- oh what a wonderful
meal. I was able to steal more of my brother’s milk
as he discussed what he had done that day. Dad jabbed me
in the elbow with his fork for having my elbows on the table.
After lunch a siesta. It is hot and
the ceiling fan hardly cools the bedroom. We hear Dad leave
to return to work. I read comic books for a while and then
my brother throws one at me which is the sign that a comic
book war has been declared and so we gather up an arm full
of comics and head to the bathroom shower where we roll
up the comics and beat on each other. We do this in the
shower so not as to disturb Mom's noon nap. But unfortunately
the bathroom door snaps open and there she is her eyes glaring
and she says she is going to tell Dad when he comes home
from work --- oh no!!!
I am up and out again after siesta
and the gang meet over at the vacant lot and we play some
marbles under the big tree that dominates the lot. It is
hot and we head over to one of the older homes on stilts
and sit under one and pass the while. We wander around the
houses and find a bee's nest hanging from the top of one
of the trees (it is a big one hanging about 12 inches) and
out come the sling shots and we knock it out of the tree.
We scatter as it tumbles down to the ground and we can hear
the angry buzz of the bees. Later we come back with a long
stick and tentatively we roll the nest over away from where
it fell and then pick it up, brush off the ants and split
the nest and each of us gets a section which contains honey
drops and we lick off the honey spitting out pieces of nest
that stick to our tongues. That was good!!
It is getting on to four o'clock
and we head over to the club (Tia Juana's original club
was adjacent to the tennis courts next to the dike). We
are not allowed in the club without our parents but we purchased
a soft-drink each from the side window. I particularly liked
the Fanta Orange Crush and I purchased one and we sat under
the shade-tree by the front of the club and nursed our sodas.
Life was good.
The street lights come on and we
know it is time to head home.
I arrive at the house and Dad is
already there and Mom's told him about us misbehaving and
waking her from her siesta. This is not unusual and I know
what is coming as Dad peels off his wide belt and folds
it in half and begins to come for me (Bill got his earlier
and smirks on the sidelines as the events unfold). I will
not be taken easily and I head off through the house with
Dad behind me swishing the belt and I beat him to my bedroom
where I quickly slide under my bed and attach myself firmly
to the mattress springs there under, clinging for all my
life while Dad gets on his knees and swings the belt under
the bed but he can't get to me and I am hollering and crying
all the while. He quits -- I think because he has been outwitted
for I have avoided the spanking but I learn years later
that he quit because he could not stop laughing and he and
Mom both laughed themselves to tears over the picture of
me clinging to the bottom of the bed to avoid a spanking.
Today I laugh too.
Bill and I take our showers in the
hot shower water and go to the kitchen for supper which
consists of left-over spaghetti that Mom has heated in a
skillet and then topped with fried eggs. Hmmm. (Love it
to this day). Afterwards, we go to the Parent's bedroom
where they sit having their traditional evening Manhattans.
We sit on their beds. They are listening to the evening
news on the shortwave radio from the Voice of America and
then there are the top five popular songs.
Dad gives us both a sip of his Manhattan and I get the cherry
– hmmmm, good. Love em to this day.
And that’s how I remember a
typical day in the life...