Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that my parents are Puerto Rican but by the time that my mom had moved us there I was so “Americanized” that I could not wait to get back to the states. You’ll find that most people who criticize the U.S. have never lived somewhere else but that’s another story. Leaving Puerto Rico was not without incident. I was staying with my dad at the time when I woke up to the sounds of sirens and police lights. I ran outside to see what was going on and my mom was screaming at the police about my dad having pushed her after coming to get me. I was asked by the police who I wanted to be with the most (remember, I was ten at the time) and I responded by saying both. I was given over to my mom the next day.My grandparents were ecstatic to see us again when we arrived in Tampa and it was good to see them. I remember her running out of her house to run towards us with tears in her eyes thanking God for bringing us there. We didn’t have a place to live so we stayed with my uncle for a while. I’m taking a wild guess and assuming that my mom spent all of her money on plane tickets as well since we had literally no money to live on. I only got to see my dad over the summer and when I did it wasn’t always fun. He owned a small cafe and worked it 6.5 days a week. Our treat was that we got to go out to another restaurant or see a movie.
When we finally moved out we moved into a flat duplex. I loathed the sand spurs that permeated that property. I’m not sure why but I know that my mom didn’t work for a while. Being in the fourth grade meant me getting a job was out of the question. We got our groceries from the Salvation Army as well as our clothes. I remember a thick yellow shirt that I absolutely hated because it was not meant for hot weather.
I attended Lockhart Elementary which sat on a sink hole. You could see through the cracks in the walls into the next classroom. They’ve since built a new one. Good for them. I don’t remember much about Christmas except for one and that was when I got a used skateboard. It was plastic – not like the ones that everyone else was using. I also remember getting a used Ouija game from the neighbors that had someone’s name scratched out on it. I didn’t keep it nor did I want to. Those are just weird. We couldn’t afford for me to get a haircut so my mom cut it. It would have turned out better had I simply stuck my head in a toilet and flushed.There was also some physical abuse happening at home. Eventually, my mom did end up getting a job but she still expected me to be the “man of the house” whatever that means.
High School was a lot better, at least for me it was. A distant relative had bought a house and let us live in it so I got to live out my high school days with some sense of normalcy. I was a drum major in the marching band and made decent grades.
I went to the prom in my junior year but thought it boring so I skipped it my senior year. I graduated early (in January) but kept going to band class because I felt at home there even though Mr. Keen could really tear into someone when they made him mad.
At the end of my senior year those aforementioned distant relatives threatened to kick us out of the house. I didn’t realize at the time that my mom hadn’t paid rent for quite some time. That act was delayed until after my first year of college when we were booted out.
My mom moved in with our neighbor, my older sister joined the Army, my younger sister moved to New York and I moved to Clearwater to stay with a buddy which didn’t last. I moved in with another friend who was much older but he was drunk all of the time. One time I came home and the oven was left open (yes, it was on) and he was passed out on the kitchen table. I was close to the folks that led the church I was going to at the time so they insisted that I move into the church building. They had what used to be a motel that reached away from the main building so I stayed there.It was nice of them to offer that but it had no hot water. I remember having to pray up the courage to jump in and yes, it does get down to the 20’s in Florida. The irony was that even though I wasn’t in a home of my own we still went out and helped other homeless people by feeding them. The job market in Florida took a dive at this time and I was let go and by this time, my mom had moved to Houston (again with the moving) and had wonderful things to say about the job market there. I told my best friend Chris that I’d be back in a year or two but that I needed to get back on my feet financially. I ended up breaking that promise. He’s still a good friend though.
As for the hardships…do I regret any of them?
Heck no. There is a very happy ending…so to speak.
Leonardo Ramirez is an author ofprose fiction and graphic novels in the genres of Young Adult and Children’s Books. For more information please visit http://www.leonardoverse.com.
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