Growing up in Phoenix, we spent lot of time with my cousins. My Tia Tillie (RIP) was my mother’s sister and my Tio Joe (RIP) was my dad’s first cousin. This would make my siblings and me more than first cousins to their offspring. We saw our cousins regularly at our house, their house and at Our Lady of Fatima. My cousins (at that time) were five brothers and one sister while we were three brothers and one sister. It made an instant army of kids at our get togethers. All of us ten kids were born between 1948 and 1955. I guess my parents and Tios took it literally when they read the instruction from God to be fruitful and increase in number.
When my cousins left our house after spending the day with us. We would yell out, “BYE!” as my Tio Joe drove away In their full station wagon. They would yell back, “BYE!” and this would go on for 5 or 6 goodbye exchanges before we could no longer hear them. Our house was on 18th Avenue and Sherman; they lived on 34th Avenue and Tonto. We could hear them all the way to Moe’s Food Fair market. (Later known as Carlito’s) These are special memories of my cousins, primo hermanos (brother/sister cousins) who went on to be some of the finest firemen and police officers to serve the City of Phoenix, along with several of their children.
My parents did their best to “keep up with the Jones” (in this case my Tios) and this usually benefitted us. When they bought a new car, we got a new car. If they took a vacation, we took a vacation.
I remember feeling jealousy for the first time around the age of 5. This happened when my cousins went to the recently opened Disneyland. It was difficult to listen to their awesome trip without grimacing. I must have heard how little Danny got lost on Main Street about seven times. If my jealousy could have spoken, it would have screamed, “WHO CARES!!! You obviously found him because he’s right here in front of me wearing his Mickey Mouse hat!” At that point my eyes must have turned green like a pickle as I was feeling super “jelly”. That’s a term young people use today instead of saying jealous.
In keeping up with those Joneses, guess what? We got to go to Disneyland near the end of 1957.
Here are a couple of memories from our visit to Disneyland. We got to ride on the locomotive that circled the entire park. During this train ride, some cowboys entered our compartment and began shooting their six guns as part of a fake train robbery. My sister Lupe screamed, “Aye mamacita, me matan, me matan!” (Mommy, mommy, they are going to kill me). The people on the train erupted in laughter.
The second memory occurred when we were riding in an open-air tram enroute to our car in one of the huge parking lots. My parents had bought us plastic yellow hats that had a long bill to resemble Donald Duck. As the tram picked up speed, my sister’s hat flew off. My father, who was sitting a few spaces from her, was quick enough to catch her hat in mid-air. My sister went from heartbreak to pure joy in 3 seconds flat. It would have made a great America’s funniest video. It felt great to be able to tell my friends and cousins that we had gone to Disneyland.
Here are a couple of things that went wrong when Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955.
• On opening day, workers were still planting trees and some areas still had wet paint.
• There were counterfeit tickets and over twice the number of guests showed up to attend opening day festivities.
• Each park ticket had a designated time to enter and leave, but the guests who got there early were not leaving at their designated time.
• Due to increased visitors from counterfeit tickets, the Disneyland restaurants and refreshment stands ran out of food and beverages.
• The asphalt on Main Street was still wet from the prior night’s rain and women’s high heels were sticking in the pavement.
Disneyland opening day was referred to as Black Sunday by the cast members. The following verse is so true in this case, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their step. Proverbs 16:9
Getting back to the subject of jealousy, I still haven’t gotten over the time my cousins went with my Tios to Flagstaff. When they returned to Phoenix, there was still actual snow on top of their car. I tried to touch the snow, but my older cousin Joey (RIP) pushed my hand away because, “It will melt.” They went on to describe how they built a snowman and rode inner tubes in the snow. Once again, my eyes turned the color of a pickle. We did not make it to the snow as a family because my mother did not like cold weather. “When momma ain’t comfortable …. we weren’t going nowhere!”
I must remember, even in my golden years, to always rejoice at others good news . . . my time will come when I get old enough. It is special to hear and see pictures of others traveling and celebrations. Enjoy life, it is only for a moment. God bless you!
The writing above is paraphrased from my first book called, Barrio Walk: Searching For Wisdom. It is available on Amazon.