Memory Lane, Part II: Entering School
April 4, 2009 § Leave a comment
I never met Bapa’s wife, my maternal grandmother. I’ve heard of her and know very little. I know she was a school teacher and that she died of breast cancer. I know that my dad took care of her as she lay dying. I also know the uncomfortable truth that she was an alcoholic. My mom wrote a paper at some point in her academic career about being a second generation alcoholic, even having never touched alcohol. A detail that somehow made its way into my memory is that she always carried around chewing gum.
At some point, we moved to San Marcos, in Southern California and lived there for a couple of years. I remember a long window in our house that overlooked the driveway. That’s the extent of my memory of those few years. I did go to 1st grade and remember my teacher, whose name escapes me now. I loved how she taught us the letters with drawings of animals. I guess I’ve never been one for learning that doesn’t involve fun so this was perfect for me.
We moved back to Colombia, celebrating my birthday on the plane ride home. We lived again in the house we had left behind- friends had been living in it while we were gone. They moved into another house in the neighborhood, affording us a friendship that still sustains itself.
Now, what happened from this point on and in what order is a mystery to me. Chronology has never been my best suit. Perhaps because in Colombia, so close to the Equator, we had no seasons to mark the passing of time. Perhaps because we moved so much. I am a nostalgic person. Quite so. I remember stories of our time in that house in Cali. A house that now hosts a liquor/corner store, much to my distaste.
I remember getting a bike for Ayyam-i-Ha. Let me rephrase. I remember my two sisters and I getting one bike for Ayyam-i-Ha. We did, in fact, share this bike, though mostly my little sister (and I never call her by this term. ever. so forgive me G) and I would ride it around the neighborhood. This makes time skip from age 7 to biking age. The bike we got didn’t have training wheels. It did come at a price. I have no idea what my parents must have done to buy us a bike. We didn’t grow up in any amount of wealth. We were very far from it. Our neighborhood was composed of the working class. Honest people with issue. There was a watchiman- a watchman- who my dad befriended. The watchiman would roam up and down our block and generally keep an eye on things. In return, people would give him money, food, clothing for him and his family and other things that were expendible to us but useful.
I remember school only on the basis of the teachers I had. I arrived at Colegio Jefferson, a private bilingual school with a uniform, speaking English and only understanding some Spanish. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Schambach, was really nice to me and considerate of my transition. Her classroom was next door to my mom’s classroom. She was, at that time, also a second-grade teacher. Regardless of any negative feelings I may have felt toward my mother throughout the course of a normal kid’s life, she backed me up big time this year. I would run into my mom’s classroom, during class time, and hide in her closet. The first couple of times, I gather that she came looking for me. My mother, in her infinite calm, assured her that I’d come out when I was ready. I would run and hide during our Spanish classes. Luckily, the school was bilingual so I could get by for the majority of the day.
The playground was where I really shined. I was master monkey. I would swing on the monkey bars and do flips and had calluses to prove my abilities. School was nothing more than a vehicle for my playground fun.
My third-grade teacher was also named Mrs. Schambach. They were family. Her class I remember a little more horrifically. The kids were a little meaner than the last. This Mrs. Schambach wasn’t the best teacher in the world and for that I remember nothing of what I learned or what she was like. One day, during P.E., I was running and some kid tripped me. I was not new to scraped knees and bruises but this kid did it out of malice. That I was not used to.
We changed schools and entered Colegio Bolivar when I was in Fourth grade. Bolivar was the kind of school that collected all the sons and daughters of everything big in Cali and deposited them on a campus with no uniform; no way to keep the big brand name jeans from immersing themselves into our mini universe.