I grew up in a very strict home. Asking to go to a friend’s house or school dance was out of the question. In my group of friends, I was always left out because I never got to hang out outside of the school setting. As a result, I never really made long lasting friendships. From 3rd to 6th grade, I had a Filipino friend named Sheila Sia. We became really good friends because she also had strict parents. But the moment we hit middle school, things changed. She rebelled and started to hang out with other friends who were more involved in school activities. Soon after, I made new friends. One was Lourdes Chavez. She was a daring girl with caramel colored skin and curly hair. There was also Veronica Zavala a very boisterous and uncensored girl. We loved to play softball and loved watching baseball. She was fair skinned with a sun kiss glow and blond hair like the pelos de elote from always playing outdoors.
My dad’s company moved from El Segundo, CA to Rialto, CA. After a year of him commuting back and forth, he decided to move us to Rialto. I hated the move and I hated Rialto. Subsequently, I lost all the friends that I worked so hard to keep. Because I was very shy and introverted, I didn’t allow many people into my life. Naturally, I didn’t really make many friends. I bounced around back and forth from groups of school kids until 10th or 11th grade when I met Delila Tamayo and Margarita Yanez in high school.
When I was 15 1/2, I got my driving permit. It was so exciting! I new soon enough I would be able to drive on my own. My Abuelo and Abuela had been visiting us from Tijuana for a few days. It was a summer morning when they were heading back to Tijuana. I wanted to go with them so bad. I asked if I could go knowing I would be rejected. My dad said no so my Abuelo asked again. For some miraculous reason, my dad actually said yes. I quickly gathered a few items and we were on our way. It was just Abuelo, Abuela, myself and a car packed to the ceiling with all kinds of things they were taking back.
We stopped to get gas before getting on the freeway. With an evil grin I thought to myself, “I want to drive into Tijuana and IN Tijuana! There is no way they can say no!” I quickly recalled a story my Abuela had told countless number of times of my Tio Jose driving to Tijuana, BACKWARDS! Not sure how much truth there is to that, but if he could drive backwards, there was no way I wasn’t going to take this opportunity to make it my first drive into Tijuana. I knew better than to ask Abuela. She would say no porque era muy nerviosa (Still is.) Instinctively, I asked Abuelo. He was always ready to take risks. Abuelo and Abuela exchanged some words and minutes later Abuelo said, “Pues a manejar!” and I quickly sat on the drivers side and adjusted my mirrors (Evil laugh.).
My Abuelo had Abuela sit in the passenger side. She was a nervous wreck. But we laughed the entire ride to Tijuana occasionally taking my hands of the steering wheel for a second and saying, “Mira, sin manos!” My abuela would yell at me, “Ay muchacha!” When I would pretend to fall asleep on the wheel, my Abuela would start trying to wake me up. I could see my Abuelo through the rear view mirror just laughing and having a good ol’ time with a caguama wrapped in a paper bag in hand.
After 2 1/2 hours, (World record according to Abuela. Insinuating I was driving too fast. lol), we were finally about to cross into Tijuana. Seeing my dad and mom drive into Tijuana dozens of times had mentally prepped me for this moment. It was time to shift gears. I propped myself up and got ready for battle. This was it… the ultimate driving test. I was like a bull in the rink waiting for the red flag to be waved in my face. I got the hand wave from los federales and I crept forward and I saw my Abuela with my peripheral vision doing the sign of the cross. Not sure if she was asking God to take care of us or thanking Him for not letting the federales stop us from all the junk we were carrying in the car. I knew the road very well to their house. I rode through those streets like I had been living in Tijuana my whole life (Does weekends count?)
I got us all to their house safe and sound. For that week, I forgot about how much I hated our move to Rialto. From that day on, I drove my family to Tijuana countless number of times and there were even times when I drove by myself (Back when it was a little safer.) Being able to take these weekend trips to Tijuana, got me through a lot of hard times in my life that I had no control off … and I am thankful for them.