By this stage in my life I was aware that these were special times for me, a turning point, if you will. I had seen life with my parents, aunts and uncles, and now I thought that my life was not turning out any better. My parents’ divorce seemed to have left me feeling captive in a type of upbringing full of hate and family conflicts which I’d been subjected to and forced to accept for many years.
My precarious condition was a childhood lacking in any preparation for a meaningful future life and here I was at the beginning of another school year finding myself in a sixth grade already feeling demoralized.
That first day I entered the classroom to find himself in a room with some people from my old neighborhood in San Miguel. The room was filled with people I had, in some way shape or form, spent time with at some point in the past; some others I did not really know too well. We were all the only Westindians in that class, and although we, as youths, should have known each other by that time in our lives, I really felt as though I hadn’t the slightest affinity with any one of them. I mean, we hardly said a word to each other.
It was scary to have come to recognize this fact, though, that I had lived so close to them and yet I felt so alienated from them all. However, my childhood days seemed to be over at the end of that year of 1950 and that dreaded unknown-manhood- lay ahead and I was feeling that it was going to catch me totally unprepared. In fact, what most worried me was that my upbringing, breeding, and even the teachings I’d gleaned from that neighborhood school for the last five years as such, had not prepared me nor instilled such qualities in me that would dignify me as a person.
I was forever in search of those models of values and morals a person could consider emulating. That was one reason I continued to visit the Westindian men at what, by now, had become my refuge, the dental clinic. More than just looking for some kind of training in a possible trade I was seeking out individuals whom I thought would manifest those qualities I would eventually grow to emulate. For some reason, however, I picked up from them that I evoked in them memories of days gone by, days when they too were roaming the streets and when some of them worked on that Canal Zone.
Some of those men had started working at a very young age, younger, perhaps even than I was at that time. I had just celebrated my fourteenth birthday a month before school was scheduled to start that year, and I was contemplating quitting school and finding work at something or other, anything, just to quiet the disquiet in my soul.
Guys in my father’s time, when they reached the age of fourteen, were considered of age to seek some kind of work. This was a general perception in most working class families, and it was, perhaps, the strongest reason for my restlessness. Rethinking such a move, however, I remembered that I had virtually taught myself everything of value I possessed at that moment in my life.
Amongst the Westindian men I knew at the time, most, I figured, acted as though they did not mind that they had not received any schooling at all. Most of their conversations centered on somehow getting hold of money. And to make matters worse I even believed that they were somehow looking down on me and the education I had thus far acquired in Spanish School.
I wrestled with this perception hard, however, as I realized that I would have to acquire everything in the way of modern skills and the new “know-how” needed to meet the current global ideas. These ideas and ideals of culture, values, and even mores were just as important to me even if I couldn’t figure out the age old mystery of how to acquire a “ton-a-money.”
This story continues.