Panorama of San Bernardino

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Early this morning, I was scrolling through Facebook, when I landed on a video interview of Sandra Cisneros. She was talking about how she found her voice. She talked about how the MFA program at Iowa was so toxic for her that she got angry, angry enough to write House on Mango Street.  She said she wanted to show her own female perspective of the barrio. A place she felt trapped and scared.

My childhood, like Cisneros', was also sometimes rough. We didn't have a lot of money.  Dad was a truck driver and Mom was a waitress and they both worked their tails off to pay the mortgage on the house (until they lost it after Dad bought a bar adjacent to a trailer park, but that's another story). They even took out a second to put in a pool (as a child I had no idea what a "second" meant, only that it caused my mom much consternation). That pool was my childhood for me in a lot of ways. I learned to love the water so much that I swam competitively in high school (until smoking did me in). My sisters and I spent hours in that pool. We used to jump off the roof to our neighbor's dismay who called our mom after seeing us do the high dive old school style. "But Mom, we put pillows all around the pool," we screamed back at her.

Most of the roughness of my childhood was caused by the fights. If there is a music genre to my childhood it is punk rock, all chaos and anarchy. Some days would be fine. Dad would come home and cook us pork chops and other days, he wouldn't come home and Mom would scream and kick us out of the house and go look for him at the local bars. Head hanging down, I would walk with my sisters to the park wondering when we could go home. I have vivid memories of sitting on a swing at the park or hiding in the plastic cheese sculpture dreaming of another life.

Yet, don't we all replicate the past in some way or another? While I would love my adult life to be free of chaos and arguments, it isn't. At times, I create chaos out of thin air, chasing drama and chaos like it's my shadow. I follow it around like my best friend.

I know that I yell and scream because it feels familiar. But, I have learned some boundaries in my forty plus (please don't make me get more specific, I have stopped counting) years on this planet and that sometimes the trick is to just stop. Just stop. Close your mouth and stop yelling. That is my mantra.

Writing is the way I keep these demons at bay. To sit down and recreate the scenes of my childhood and the characters of my father and mother is like a massage. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it feels damn good, but it is always necessary for my well-being.

I know more than anything in this world that I must make my voice be heard.  That will be the legacy I leave the world.  My work is who I am and I am my voice.

And I am also just a crazy girl from the Inland Empire sitting at an IPAD at six am typing her heart out.

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting, huh, how we can see and remember what didn't work and still do it. I love how you describe just flicking the switch to OFF. Great essay, JEM.