About a month ago I got to reconnect to an old childhood friend from East Los Angeles. She and I had found each other on Facebook (like you do) and was in town visiting her mother who still lives in our old neighborhood. So we planned ahead and decided to meet up while she was in town. She came to meet me in Long Beach, with her new girlfriend and the girlfriends two daughters, so we could eat, drink, and talk. We visited the coffee shop my boyfriend works at and talked over coffee and hot chocolate with the kids. I happened to have a few photos of us right before she left Southern California for Bakersfield and started showing them to her girlfriend and the kids.
It was a blast from the past!
Recently she posted a comment (I’m not a FB stalker I swear!) on FB about missing her father around this time of year. He passed away years ago while I was in high school. I still remember the day she came to see me at my home, behind my grandfather’s Barbershop, and I still remember the look on her face. I asked what was wrong and all she said was, “My father’s died.” I immediately grabbed and hugged her and started to cry. We stood there in the doorway crying for what seemed like forever. Afterward she told me he had died of an apparent heart attack. They suspected he was having an affair and tried the new drug (at the time) Viagra. He was driving at the time of the heart attack and the police found his car on the side of the freeway with him the driver’s seat not responding.
Despite the alleged affair he was a good man, loving father, and a wonderful person to me. Growing up I had to take the bus to high school and while waiting for the bus one day my friend and her parents drove by and offered me a ride. Unknown to me at the time, they had a routine of picking up donuts and coffee before driving my friend and I to school. Being nervous and slightly obsessive about being on time to school I, at first, started to become frantic every time we went to the donut shop. However, over time they continued to offer me a ride to school and I always said yes, even if we were going to be late. I started to appreciate the time I spent with her and her family at the donut shop and loved hanging out with them, all the time, even after school. I was a constant that her parents appreciated. Being strict Catholic and Mexican parents she wasn’t allowed to be around boys, at all, and being female I was always welcome in to their home. She was even allowed to hang out at my home without her parents being overly possessive (which they were). Her mother was especially protective and wouldn’t even allow male friends to call her at home. Her mother would hang up on all of them if they tried to contact her. Which is where I came in. I would be the messenger between her and the small number of boyfriends she had through high school.
Of course, after she graduated high school (she is two years older than me) and started classes at the East Los Angeles Community College (ELAC) we still stayed in touch. She was my only friend who drove at the time so all of us would pile in to her car blast the Beastie Boys songs and sing to the lyrics as we cruised down Hollywood Blvd, or our neighborhood. We hung out at the only Starbucks in ELA and became Mallrats at the Montebello Mall. We spent all of our free time together. This was also the time she came out to us, her close friends, as a lesbian. I had no idea, but was never bothered by the news. She also confided in us that her father knew she was gay before he died, even her church Priest knew, but not her mother. Right after she graduated high school and started at ELAC she started to live a double life. Her outside home life: open, out of the closet, and free. Her home life: closeted, secretive, and restricted. Her mother was so in the dark about her homosexuality that my friend had her girlfriend sleep over many many times and her mother never suspected a thing! She got away with a lot in those days. We all did.
I was the only girl in our small group who didn’t have strict religious parents so my home was a haven for a lot of my friends who had bad family lives. My mother knew her parents, and her parents trusted my mother and I. Thinking back on that time in my life I realized I could have done a lot worse. Of course I lied to my parents some times, but I was always home at the end of the night and my grades never faltered. I don’t have very many close childhood friends, but the ones I do have are very important to me. Growing up in ELA all of my friends had religious and strict parents. It was inescapable. We covered for each other, we kept secrets for each other, we looked out for one another. We were close.
I miss those days, but what I miss more are my friends.