Cafe Hitch-hike


Turning fear around

When I was 6 years old, my mom and step-dad allowed me to watch grown-up movies with them after 8:00 p.m. if I behaved. One night, we watched a movie about a killer hurricane in Hawaii, and I was so afraid! My mom assured me and said we won't get them up in Michigan.

Narami, down in la isla encanta Puerto Rico, just lived through Hurricane Joanne. She came out well, thank goodness.

It reminded me... Mom's family is from the Rio Grande Valley of Tejas (a.k.a. Northern Occupied Mexico). I went down there a year after watching this movie and went to a relative's house. The homes in their neighborhood were really small, like the size of large garages, and were on planks of cement. The houses were elevated elevated about 2 feet above the ground.

"Mom," I whispered, "why are the houses like this?"

"It's for the hurricanes. Sometimes they get alot of rain from them," she replied.

"Hurricanes? But they aren't by the ocean."

"The Gulf of Mexico is about 30 or 40 miles away. Hurricanes are like big storms that come from over the ocean," she explained to my 2nd grade logic.

"What about their houses?" I asked, always the curious/nosy kid.

"They board up the windows before the hurricane comes," said Mom.

I noticed strips of plywood lying against the house. Later, cousin Alberto, some other kids, and I used them to make a camp, though I imagined Alberto's uncles hammering and nailing the boards to cover the windows. I also imagined my 70-year old great-grandma Carolina huddled in some house, in the middle of howling storms and rain, and all those skinny Mexican relatives of mine clamored together in a house, waiting out the storm in fear. I felt very afraid for them.

I didn't feel very afraid for too long. Alberto seemed like a happy kid, and so was our cousin Felix. Great uncle Chuy (pronounced Chewy, a Mexican/Spanish nickname) was happy, and so was my great-aunt Chela. Hurricanes never, ever were mencioned in conversations. It was as if they never thought about them. If they weren't worried or afraid of hurricanes, then I felt I didn't need to. Besides, Alberto and I climbed up to the crawl space above his small house. That made me happy.

I used to be afraid of everything when I was a kid: dogs, snakes, mean kids, and the dark. I was afraid of certain kids at school, going to hell, and whatever scary thing I watched on TV. I was also afraid from a lot of the things my moron step-father said (not so much discipline but just off all the bad things that can happen if ____ *fill in the blank*. I guess he used fear to keep us in line).

Going to Texas and learning about hurricanes was probably one of the first times I learned to live with fear. When I look at it this way, my relatives showed me how to play, do things, and just plain live despite the possibility that something scary might happen.

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