Aside from the embarrassing experiences I recounted in the last four posts, I also had a number of other factors working against my popularity at school.
- For starters, I was usually teacher’s pet. I didn’t mean to be. It just happened year after year. (Except in 6th grade. That teacher didn’t have a pet. He was vicious, mean, and dreadful. But all the other teacher’s loved me.) I was not popular for being well-liked by my teachers.
- I was undoubtedly the last one picked for the kickball team every single time. No one wanted me and I don’t blame them. I was not a great player. Not even a decent player. I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. Basically, I sucked. I shouldn’t have even attempted to play. Things would have gone a lot smoother for me if I had chosen to just watch from the sidelines.
- My mom made me use a lunch pail when it was no longer cool to use one. All of my classmates had moved on to brown paper bags and I was still hauling my Raggedy Ann lunch box to school every day. I think she finally allowed me to switch to paper bags in 5th grade. But she didn’t want me to throw them away! I had to bring them back home and re-use them a couple of times.
- My mom never once let me go to a birthday party for a classmate. She didn’t believe in the “American way” of just dropping off your kid at someone’s house you don’t know and she certainly wasn’t going to hang out at the party either. By the time I was in 5th grade, I was no longer being invited to birthday parties.
- I only went on ONE field trip during those first eight years of school and that was because my dad finally put his foot down and forced my mom to let me go on my last 8th grade class field trip to some place called Pickwick in LA.
|1981 - Stylin' in my Sergio Valente jeans|
and my Vans slip-ons in Mar Del Plata, Argentina
By the time I was in 7th grade, things were looking up for me. My mom allowed me to quit playing the accordion after seven long years; I no longer had to wear my Holly Hobbie shoes; I got my braces off (which really hadn’t been much of a source of ridicule); and she retired the motorhome. She resumed driving a regular car due to the fact that Target bought out FedMart and forced my dad to move his locksmithing business out of their parking lot. My dad found a space to rent on the same block as Target. My mom still suffered from anxiety (as I mentioned in Child Accordionist For Hire ) so instead of hanging out in the motorhome all day, she now had a private “office” in the back of my dad’s shop where she spent her time. There was a table and chairs, a couch, a TV, and a refrigerator. After school, we would still go to my dad’s shop for a few hours but it was much more tolerable than being stuck in the motorhome AND I no longer had to practice my accordion!
|Hello Lockshop with a room in the back!|
During 8th grade, the big talk at school was which High School we were going to. Approximately half of my class was planning to attend Mater Dei and two or three of the boys were going to Servite. I was one of the Mater Dei kids. Everyone in my family knew I was passionate about going to Mater Dei. My friends and I went together to take the Entrance Exam (back when they still had one). I was so excited walking onto that campus for the first time and sitting in a classroom. I envisioned what my high school days were going to be like at Mater Dei. I was even excited about wearing a new uniform.
During one week in March of 1984 kids at school, including my three best friends, reported that they had gotten their acceptance letters. I had not gotten anything. I wondered what could be the hold-up. I got worried and nervous that maybe I had not been accepted. My friends assured me that there was no way I had not been accepted at Mater Dei. I knew they were right. I had excellent grades after all and I thought I had done really well on the entrance exam.
About a week after my classmates had gotten their letters, I got mine, except mine was a rejection letter. I was beyond devastated. It was the ultimate rejection I had yet experienced in all of my eight years at school. I was so depressed that my mom even let me stay home from school the next day and comforted me as I cried my eyes out. I couldn’t face my classmates. I felt like this was just another slap in the face and further proof of how different I was. I wasn’t even cool enough to go to the same high school as the rest of them. My teachers and principal were shocked at the news. My dad called the principal to see if she could find out what happened. The principal called Mater Dei and was supposedly told that it was because I didn’t have any extracurricular activities (I guess they weren’t interested in my accordion skills) and that they also take more boys than girls during freshman year, so I was cut. (At least that’s how I remember the story). Some boys and girls from my class with lower GPA’s than me got in because they played sports, did cheerleading, or had relatives who had attended the school. I was so outraged with all of it.
I spent the rest of the school year mostly worried, imagining what my high school future held. All I could think was that I was going to be beat to smithereens if I had to go to public school. I could only imagine what those kids were going to do to naïve, innocent me. I knew I was dead – especially because La Sparkles’ home school was the same High School as mine. My Holly Hobbie reputation was sure to re-surface!
As the end of the school year approached, I became scared and sad to leave behind all I had ever known despite having felt rejected and unloved by so many of my classmates. What I feared the most was that I was about to embark on a new chapter of my life without the security of my three best friends. So when 8th grade graduation came, it was bittersweet.
|Crying as the ceremony concluded|
My entire family came to my graduation ceremony. The Honor students were distinguished with gold cords and red cords (depending on GPA) to wear over their graduation gowns. I had a red cord. During the awards presentation, the principal and the pastor distributed academic awards to a handful of the Honor students. I was disappointed to not be among them but proud nonetheless of my Honor student status. The final award of the evening was announced as the Citizenship Award. It was described as the award befitting of the person who exemplified what it was to be a good citizen throughout our entire eight years at school; the student who went out of their way to help others; the student who showed care, concern, and respect for others; the student who demonstrated good behavior in class and on the playground; etc. When they called my name and presented me with a plaque, I was stunned. I felt elated, proud, and vindicated. I felt recognized and rewarded for everything I had been through with the bullies. It was definitely a great moment of pride for my parents too.
|Receiving my Citizenship Award Plaque|
My mom instilled in me the importance of being a good person. She had always been a big proponent of helping others – especially when they were non-English-speaking foreigners like her. Starting at a very young age, she would have me translate for others. Many times throughout my childhood I served as an interpreter in restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, doctor’s offices, etc. My mom was always very proud of me for helping out. I do admit that as I got older and more self-conscious, I wasn’t always so willing to jump in and translate. My mom didn’t like this and would demand that I help no matter what my opinion was about it. One time, when I was about 12, we were at the post office and a customer was having trouble explaining himself to the postal worker. My mom felt terrible for the poor man and told me to go help him. I told her “I can’t.” She was immediately put off by my answer and insisted that I help the man right away! Again I replied “I can’t!” She got really irritated with me and demanded to know my reasons for not helping the man. I said “Because he’s Asian!” She loved telling that story to friends. She thought it was hilarious.
Today I had a full circle moment. I was at the post office and a woman who didn’t speak English was next in line but there were no Spanish-speaking postal workers available to help answer her questions. The postal worker loudly asked if there was anyone who spoke Spanish. I immediately shouted “I do! I want to help her!” I almost didn’t realize it was me who said it. As I walked out of the post office, I wondered why I had said “I want to help her”? It was then that I remembered my post office experience with my mom when I was 12. Although my mom wasn't with me today, I know she's the one who made me do it and I'm sure she was beaming with pride from heaven.