Tuesday, October 31, 2006

La Casa de Las Lomas

I was thinking that I have hardly written anything here lately and really what could I write about? First I thought, well, I could write that I am going to PR and "that my bags are packed and I 'm ready to go. " Sounds like the Carpenters, doesn't it? You had to have been around the 70's to remember that. Anyway, what is taking me to PR these days, is la casa de Las Lomas. I really didn't want to let go of that house. Too many memories are unneatly piled there. Let me clarify that it wasn't my first home. In fact, it didn't become home until my family and I, had concluded our stateside and international rendevous in Virginia, Texas, and the Panama Canal Zone. We most unwilling came to Las Lomas, after mom and dad separated after daddy was transferred to Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan. He chose to go to that solitary place, rather than face a probable death in VietNam. He said it was not his idea to "swim so long to end up dying on the shore." Loosely translated version of "tanto nadar para morir en la orilla." So he went up north and we went to the Caribbean.

It was not a piece of cake for any of us. First of all nothing had ever been done to that house to improve it in all the years my parents had had it. After living in a three story house in the officer's quarters in Ft. Clayton, which included a covered garage and a maid's quarters downstairs, we moved into a tiny run down little house on San Patricio Avenue, which had two adjoining thin doors held together by a doornob serving as our front door. It not only was not safe, but it was noisy and small! The buses went up and down the street all day long, and you couldn't step out of the house without someone hooting and yelling piropos as if they had never seen anyone in shorts! Well, they rarely had, and who could blame them. We were las gringas in the neighborhood. Our only friends who understood us at first were los coloraos or redheads, who were also Army Brats that lived next to La Gabriela, several blocks away.

My first impression of Las Lomas was not good. It didn't even have hot water and at first, I had to share a double bed with my sister Doris, since we no longer had our own rooms. Fortunately, mom expanded the whole house, building a fabulous huge kitchen, a new living room, garage, and expanded the front bedroom, where Doris and I , were able to get in some bunk beds. Since I was younger and more agile, I slept on the top and Doris on the bottom. After we discovered the Teen Club in Ft. Buchanan, we spent many a Friday night talking about boys till one in the morning or until Mom came in to tell us to stop since we had a busy day before us on Saturday.

Saturday was clean up day. So every Saturday morning, Doris and I had pretty much the same routine. We had to clean the living room and remove all the grime from the nine or ten windows that faced the street. In order to clean that room spic and span we'd move all the furniture either out into the garage or into the older part of the house with its dull grayish floors. Next we gathered brushes, mops, and brooms and dipped them into foamy soapy water. After scrubbing everything down we would hose the floors and windows and walls, and end up soaked but refreshed. Then we would dry the terrazo floors and lie there for a while until the coolness revived us as we talked about going to visit our friend Maria Quintero or our cousins, Evie, Mayra or Damaris, who lived down the street or going shopping in Santurce.

Twice a month, we would get our allowance from Mom which for me was twenty dollars and in those days went a long ways. Next we would a catch a bus to Santurce and scout the stores for shoes, and cloth to make pretty dresses. We would usually get off at la Parada 18 near what used to be Garcia Commercial, a very safe store since mom had always worked with Los Garcias. I am sure if we had gotten into trouble we could have easily gone in there for help. Yet we never needed to, not then. Instead, in those days we were headed for Bakers, Thom McAn, Capri, and Spanish shoe stores, which had the finest shoes around. At around 5:00 we headed back home with our tired feet and hands strained under the weight of new shoes, ribbons, lace, and future granny or empire dresses.

It was in Las Lomas, that I greeted my long line of boyfriends. Mind you, "boyfriends" that lasted at first only a week, because I really wasn't very tolerant of guys that thought they could score a homeroom, when I only wanted to check them out from the bleachers. Okay not the bleachers, but I was still noncommittal. Later though I met some really nice guys like Bob Hurd and Augie Ingellis. Two young men who were very much like me, raised in the States, military dads, and spoke my cultural language. Not only were they bilingual, but about as easy going as they could get. When I was dating Augie, I had just met a young man at the UPR and to my horror they both showed up at Las Lomas at the same time. How I got out of that jam, I have totally erased from my mind. But yeah, I later did break up with Augie and then dated Clarence. What a life!

Las Lomas, the home of my youth, my carefree teenage days, the days also of when I started to pay attention to my spiritual needs, where Mr. B (for Brenneman) came to pick me up to go to Grace Brethren Bible Church for Teen Time. He always picked me up first, and took me on the circuit through Bayamon, Guaynabo, and surrounding urbanizations in his Volkswagon Van. It was from there that with trembling knees after a real hearbreak, I walked from Las Lomas, crossed La Avenida Central to Summit Hills, and turned a new leaf and dedicated my life to Christ. Las Lomas, a place where I went from being a young girl and lived through my parents difficult marriage, my sweet sixteen with live music that Edwin brought in with all his friends, graduating from "La Santa" Gabriela Mistral, my brother's addiction, going on to college, falling in love, falling out of love, falling in love again, and working for Campus Crusade for Christ. Later, where daddy had me read his law exam results because he was too scared to do it himself. He passed! What joy! Where I met and dated Jean Canino who became an important part of my life. Where Edwin and Jazmin lived, and Edwincito was born. And where Edwin passed away. The house was never the same without him. It has been basically shut up since then. That is why it is hard, so hard to let go. So many memories tightly wrapped together. Thank God for the memories.

Thank you, God, for the memories.

Maybe now someone will open the windows and let the light shine in. It's too bad it can't be me.