Jan 17, 2019

GOING ON 49 YEARS







Crestline Elementary, Barstow, CA 






We met in Mrs. Schmidt’s 6thGrade class at Crestline Elementary in Barstow, California. 


For me the newness of attending this school was scary, mysterious and at best, awkward.  I had just finished 5 months of 6thgrade in Panama and now was attending 6thgrade all over again in Barstow, California.  In those days, I never imagined that one of my classmates would become one of my life dearest friends. This coming September, it will be 49 years. 


At Crestline it was a new school experience, new buildings, new people, new friends, new schedule, new teachers, all in English.  It was a public school, no uniforms, not a Catholic nun in site, morning prayers replaced with the Pledge of Allegiance and the big blue bus ride to Colegio Maria Inmaculda in Panama now a 15 minute walk from our house on Fenoak Dr.  Lunch box in hand, the walk was an adventure, when we reached Windy Pass, part of the way we walked in the open desert. 







My biggest fear in this new school was speaking English, the reading circle we had once a week filled me with terror. Although I knew English, (it was my 2ndlanguage) all the kids were keenly aware that I was “the student from the far away country, Panama.”  In the reading circle I imagined my voice exaggerated, loud, if I could hear my nervous breathing, I’m sure the other students also could hear. I remember early in the school year some students were confused on how I could possibly look like them. A few told me that they thought everyone from Panama was Indian. 








In this huge and significant life transition, I was fortunate that we had an amazing Mother who prepared us as best she could for this life change and I also had 4 siblings going through the same experience. Toby was in kindergarten at Crestline Elementary and Carlos was in 4thgrade.  We were collectively all managing the excitement and the fear of attending a new school, in a new city, in a new country. 



In the space that was Mrs. Schmidt’s 6thgrade class I met a wonderful friend, Patricia Jimenez. Pat lived closer to Crestline than I did. We had to pass through her neighborhood to get to Crestline. Pat had a large family, 9 siblings total and her house was in the best place in the world possible; the Jimenez family lived right across from Eddies’ Market.  



Eddie’s was the best store in the world, it was easily accessible via bicycle, it was owned by a wonderful man that cared for all the neighborhood kids and he had the best supply of candy ever. My absolute favorites, Pixy Stix candy and also little candy coated chocolate balls that came in sleeves of 5 or 6 and gumballs. 










I don’t remember too much from the days in Mrs. Schmidt’s class. She was a nice teacher. Soon after the school year started I was put in charge of the morning milk count, keeping track of how many kids were getting milk for lunch. The classrooms were in long rectangle shaped buildings, portable mobile home type classrooms, low ceilings, bright industrial lights and never enough warmth in the cold winter months.  The entire year I was at Crestline I dreaded the weekly reading circle, to this day, I still don’t like to read in a group.





Crestline Students at our
40th Year High School Reunion in 2017 


Pat and I graduated to Pitcher Jr. High School and this was a treat for all involved. Pitcher was a brand new, modern school, all brick construction, the classrooms had high ceilings, all brand new furniture, desks, blackboards and bookshelves for all the supplies. And the most awesome feature, we had lockers.  Every student was assigned a new combination locker, that was cool !



We also had wonderful teachers, Miss Young, Miss Olincy, Miss Coffee, and Mr. Brown our guidance counselor.  This is the school where in 8thgrade I got in trouble with the HomeEc teacher, I got a progress report sent home because I was “bored” in the classroom and not paying attention.   


Pat and I then moved onto 9thgrade at John F. Kennedy High School.  And that was a blast. By then we had made friends with students from other schools and Kennedy was fun.  At that time Barstow had two high schools, Kennedy was the new school, we were the Mighty Spartansand our arch rivals across town were the Riffians from Barstow High School. We had a better high school band, football team and track team. 







Our friendship developed and grew over the years, rooted and anchored in similarities and differences. Pat’s family spoke Spanish, her parents both from Mexico. She knew and understood that different countries and cultures made up the world. Pat in 6thgrade knew I was not an alien transported from some far place in Central America. 



Our families both Catholic, we attended Sunday mass at St. Josephs Catholic Church. I also did weekly catechism classes with Pat at St. Josephs, I think we went on Tuesday nights.  We both lettered on the Varsity Tennis Team, Pat was always better at tennis than I was, she was very accurate with her shots. We were both in Student Council and we both had older and younger siblings in the same schools.  We liked the same subjects, English, Creative Writing and Spanish.  



Pat is the friend that I went to my first rock concert with, and it was because she had older sisters that were nice enough to let us join in.  The first concert at the famous Swing Auditorium on E Street in San Bernardino, CA., about an hour away from Barstow by car.  The band was Black Sabbath. 


The highlight concert at the SWING during our high school years, by far my all time favorite, KISS.  We progressed to bigger venues as we got into 11thand 12thgrade, the most adventuresome and amazing concert I ever attended with Pat and a group of other friends, LED ZEPPELIN at the San Diego Sports Arena in our senior year, June 19th, 1977. That was a “spend the night” in San Diego experience, I drove us all in the family station wagon.  To this day I don’t know how I convinced my DAD to let us drive the family station wagon all the way from Barstow to San Diego. 







Other memorable recollections from High School, having the joy and privilege of eating tamales every year at Christmas made by Patricia’s wonderful MOM. The best tamales I’ve ever had, period end of story.  Pat’s Mom and Patricia attending my Mom’s funeral in Barstow in May of 1974.  I remember looking around in the church and there they were, a few pews back, hands clasped, Pat’s Mom wearing a small black veil. In one of the darkest days of my life, there was my friend, Patricia and her MOM, with me, with my family.   


We both went to college, we both started our respective careers, we’ve lived close and we’ve lived miles and miles part, always in touch through life events, birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals, nieces, nephews; the love and expanse of our friendship always growing.  


Words that describe Pat: loving, warm, caring, funny, smart, curious, determined, world traveler. One of the things I value and love most about Pat and I’m sure other people do, she is a wonderful, attentive, listener.  And she has been that way all her life. A true listener. If you know someone like this in your life, you know what I mean. 


Every word spoken is listened to and held with care for meaning and emotion. She is not quick to respond or have an opinion, she values pauses required for reflection and is OK with silences ushered in when quiet is appropriate. Her responses, input, feedback always with care, thought, and understanding. 









I was at her lovely home in California in June of 2017, we were on her patio for hours one morning catching up on our lives. The conversation and sharing of our lives in those momenst, as it has always been, comfortable, confident, genuine.  I am completely at home and at peace in Pat's company.  It’s as though our friendship is a book of thousands of pages and even though a page has not been turned for months, when the turn is finally made, it’s as if the book and the reading and the story have never rested. 









Dear Pat, I wish you the very best Birthday today, welcome to the Sixty Club.  
Love you, tu amiga por vida ! 


Elena    







2017 at Pat's home in California