Cloaked in a story
We read poetry and sometimes a great novel.
History and biographies pass along our paths.
Sometimes we meet a human that is a novel, a human story, a biography,
and the person with a life that is a story.
Could it be that each one of us is indeed that great novel?
We as individuals are cloaked in suspense and drama, veiled in insecurities and peaceful oblivion.
We share what all great writers write about, we carry our novels in our souls as we walk into
that great storeroom of good words. Words that are cloaked in a story.
This is a nice thought.
We are.
Cloaked in a story.

My grandfather Pablo brought his family to San Gabriel, California from Mexico by train in about the 1920.
My Grandfather had a Hacienda in Mexico.
A Mexican General came to the Hacienda and told my grandfather to leave Mexico or
he and his family would be killed because my grandfather Pablo was related to the Dictator of Mexico Porfirio Diaz
My dad Thomas was born in Mexico in 1919 when Pablo moved the family to San Gabriel, California.
My grandfather then went back to Mexico to fight (with) alongside Poncho Villa.
I realize that this does not make sense the way it is written but if you read the history of Poncho Villa it does make sense.
I do not know when my grandfather returned to his family in San Gabriel.
After his return Pablo did get a job working for Henry Huntington in San Marino, California.
Where he worked in the Desert Garden until his retirement.
Henry Huntington had worked with Porfirio to improve the railroads in Mexico.

     The first thing I remember about my mother is of her giving me a bath in an old gray double sink. The sink was behind a house near my father's parents place, the Pablo Diaz home. You could see a dirt drive going down the left side of the house. In the back yard toward the rear, you could see a very large old oak tree in front of two more apartment houses.  Around the base of the oak, there was a wooden bench, a place to talk and enjoy with a friend. A child could play in the light gray dust there. I had the feeling that I was staying in one of those apartment houses.  Behind the main house, I have a picture in my mind of my mother giving me a bath, washing my hair, with soap everywhere in this old, double square wash basin. Rosy cheeks and suds on my body and hair. These are the first images I have of my mother.
     I had recently called my aunt Jenny Diaz who lives in California and asked about where I had lived in my childhood.  She told me of several places around San Gabriel, California.  I recounted the story of the double sinks to her and said that this was the first memory of my mother that I could recall. She replied that it was not my mother who gave me a bath in the double sinks, but rather it was her, my aunt Jenny.

    During this time frame I remember being sent to a foster home in South San Gabriel, on Del Mar Ave. and East Valley Blvd. I remember a big parking lot and some kind of department store to the left of this house. I must have been around three years old.  These are memories I do not wish to remember but I try to dig deeper in this mind of mine; hopefully rereading this and touching up a painting, a photo on theses walls in my brain.  In a frenzy, kicking and screaming, feeling totally frightened and abandoned, I cried for hours (morning until noon is the time frame I remember).  Someone had to come after me.  I think it was my dad. It is very difficult to explain the intensity of inner pain I felt in all my longings to understand or explain what was happening to me in these writings. No matter how long I sit and ponder at these words I write, no other memory comes forward. If I could understand maybe I could maybe place my mind at ease. The above statements is all I have of my mother.
Although my father showed me a picture of her while living in Alhambra in the Tony Stucky rental (In the 1950's).
     I am remembering things pertaining to my life, starting at my grandmother's home, my mother's home, Rebecca's home, the place she had called home, the place was my home in Pasadena.  This was a two-story house with two apartments, plus our living quarters.  My grandparents lived up stairs in this house. An entry room with two sliding double wooden doors with a turning staircase, one doorway blocked some furniture and the other leading to the living room and one double door bedroom was down stairs.  Some of their children ( my aunts and uncles) lived there, they were Marta, Raye, Sam, Rudy, and Esther.  It was my grandmother who raised me from age three to about seven.  Prior to that, I have no other memories other than the scene at the foster home and the wash basin.
     I remember climbing the pine trees out back behind the house on sometimes a daily basis. The main house was big like a hotel with two normal size homes in the rear facing another street as rentals. A vacant lot was to to the left of these three buildings and a railroad track to the left of the vacant lot. Across the tracks was the parking lot for the Elite Cleaners. Across Belfountainne was the Elite Cleaners where my grandfather worked at night. Out of the upstairs kitchen window I could see several black fuel storage tanks towering over evreything.with silver X bracing's. I remember my grandmother going to the back upstairs screened in porch and calling "Thennees," her Spanish for Dennis.  She also  called me Tomas on some occasions. (The name Tomas is my best loved name for my being. Dennis is what family called me and remembers, Tom is what the military tagged me with.) I was the totally spoiled child.  I ran and I played.  I had all of Pasadena to play in and I did.  The neighborhood kids and I would go to a barn on Fair Oaks which was full of bales of straw.  These straw bales were used on one of the side streets to place under the horse prior to the Rose Parade.  We played king of the hill in that barn.  We had tunnels to roam in. It is funny that in a city a child will always find a bale of hay to play in?
     We would travel the Arroyo Seco Wash to the Rose Bowl.  At that time, it was a jungle and a sewer full of wild animals. Twisting and turning we went places a child should never go into.
     We would put pennies on the rail spur next to our house.  The cars consisted of just one or two boxcars with a man walking alongside.
     I had a cat named Ricardo (I rolled the rrrs).  He was black and very friendly.
     The kids I played with would ambush each other with our "Hoppy" long cap pistols, knocking each other over the head as we would come around the corner and get ambushed. It did hurt. My Hoppy hat reminded me of all the hats I had during this time ad I wrote about all those hats. It was very thinking about all the hats that I wore in my life. Here a link to that story (email).

     I remember going to the store for my grandfather, a steel wire of a man, the size of a
matador.  He said to me, "Dennis, will you go to the store and get some milk?  It's for you."   He handed me a dollar bill and away I went.  I ran along the side of the house, across the vacant lot to the tracks, and followed the tracks for two blocks South toward South Pasadena and a half block to the Fair Oaks Boulevard.  Across the boulevard was the store.  The streets were hot on my bare feet, my usual summer wear.  Into the store I went and grabbed a quart of milk from the glass case.  I went over to the counter and looked at the cookies and the Mexican bread, those round rolls with that looked like turtle shells with sugar or icing on them.  But, my grandfather said milk, to buy milk.  I paid for it and walked out the door.  The concrete was warm, but the roadway was hot.  After crossing the boulevard, I opened the waxed carton of milk and drank about half of it, something a thirsty child would do. I headed back toward the tracks drinking milk as I went.  When I finally got home, I tossed the empty carton into our burn barrel in the yard and found something else to occupy my mind.  About a half hour later, my grandfather came around the house and asked where the milk was as he didn't see it in the icebox.  I said I drank it on my way home.  He smiled, gave me another dollar bill, and then sent me back to the store.  "Bring it home," he said.
     The girls (my aunts) living in the house were always playful and full of joy, and they stuck together.  I remember one Halloween when I was about five they dressed me up in a Little Bo-Peep dress and patent leather shoes that belonged to my cousin. My hair was long then in a Buster Brown style.  They put a little rouge on my cheeks and away we went trick or treating.  They told everyone that I was too shy to get dressed up for Halloween. Those women loved that type of humor and it was a great big Halloween joke that we played on a lot of people and no one caught on. It was great fun and I have fond memories of that Halloween.
     Our Christmas celebrations on Bellefontaine Street were always very big affairs. They usually began a week before Christmas and ended on January 2 after our all night stay at the Rose Parade.  I remember my grandmother and her sister Mena cooking those two weeks everyday. A big wash tub steaming on the floor filled with sweet and regular hot Tomales. A garage downstairs and to the left filled with beer in an old beer replenishing refrigerator. All  my cousins would sleep over during those days, pillow fights and dreaming of sleighs almost every night. Our Christmas trees were huge (it seemed to me at the time) and beautiful.  You can imagine how big an event Christmas Day was.  One Christmas Day,  I made a complete ass of myself because I was a spoiled child.  I had asked my grandmother for a black puppy.  On Christmas morning, all of Santa's presents were passed out.  A large box, which was wrapped with ribbon and a big bow, was brought downstairs.  The present was given to me by my aunts, who were all smiling and beaming their happiness.  They said, "Merry Christmas, Dennis."  When I opened the box, I found a beautiful, brown puppy.  But, being the spoiled brat that I was, I promptly told them that I had wanted a black puppy!  I now remember my aunts' faces that day, but at the time, I didn't care.  All I wanted was a black puppy, not a plain, brown one.  I am truly sorry that I was such a wretch of a child.
    My uncles Sam and Rudy would hang out at local bars after work. At night they would come home happy or sad depending on the weather. At times I would end up on some drunks lap, this is not much fun to talk about, it wasn't fun. I do not like drink or drunks they give me a headache. These were hard working men and most of the time were very good to me but on those few moments in time when they were drunk left a life long impression on me.
     I had three major accidents while I was living in Pasadena.  One accident involved a ride I had caught on an Ice truck on that dead end street behind my grandfathers home.  I meant to quickly jump off, but the driver picked up too much speed and I jumped forward toward the road.  I rolled like a car tire, smashing my mouth on the asphalt as I rolled down the road. I chipped my new tooth and skinned my knee.  The tooth was later capped with silver.  The horrible nickname "Snaggletooth" was attached to me for years.  It was hard enough being Mexican, but I was a rare, wild Snaggletoothed Mexican who was only seen on  a few special occasions.
     The second time I was hurt was when I was hit by a car.  I was crossing the street while I was going to the store on Fair Oaks I have already told you about.  I do not remember what happened.  One minute I was on the curb accross from the store and I stepped into the street and the next minute I was in the hospital. How long was I in the hospital I do not know. A day? A week? I have no clue and no one seems very worried.
     The third accident happened when I was taking my shortcut through the Huntington Memorial Hospital on my way home from school. I was on my small bicycle going at a high rate of speed, with my hair flying and pumping  my pedels like crazy.  Coming out the back downhill driveway of the hospital at full speed, I swept out into the street into the back bumper of a passing car.  My front tire hooked onto the car's back bumper.  The driver drove down the street for some time before she realized that she had company.  I was lucky.  I was just skinned up on that trip.
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