My Childhood Life In Brawley, California

  

It made the front page of The Brawley News: two young brothers were killed by a motorist while they were riding a bike. I knew one of the brothers, Clifton Socky; he was in my fifth-grade class. He and his family lived in Hank’s Court on the same street as me. Clifton rode on the handle bars of the bicycle while his brother peddled. A popular football player from Brawley Union High School accidentally hit and killed the brothers. These deaths froze my heart with fear. Though Clifton was only an acquaintance, I came to the realization that death was real and it that could have been anyone on our street.

We lived outside the city limits, very close to country living, surrounded by fields and fields of carrots, sugar beets and tomato farms. We had two addresses that were both delivered to the same mail box: Route 1 Box 6-H or 1669 East “I” street. Kids like me were always running the streets, some on bikes and others on foot. We played outside in a carefree environment, without a worry in the world. But After Clifton and his brother’s death, I knew I had to be more careful.

The street on which we lived was used as a shortcut to reach Highway 111. We lived about seven houses from this highway. “I”street  had one store. Jin Wong’s, was about two city blocks from our home. Jin Wong sold penny candy by the bulk, but this is were we purchased our staples like milk and bread. This is also where I was introduced to potato chips; at ten cents a bag, it was the greatest deal ever! Jin Wong could not communicate in English very well, but money speaks all languages; as long as you paid  for the product, life was good. Years later Jin Wong left for a season and then came back with a Chinese wife. I found this a little strange, because to an eleven-year-old he was an old man; in reality he was probably in his early 50’s.

When we got older, my friend Nancy and I would sneak over to the Airport Market which was located on the corner of Main Street and Highway 111.  This was considered a dangerous trek because we walked along Highway 111, where the passing of semi-trucks left us with a strong gust of wind as they barreled through the highway. Airport Market was such an improvement over Jin Wong’s; they had better choices of candy and a variety of potato chips. Airport Market had Wampum Corn Chips, with Big Chief Wampum as their logo. This was one of my favorite brands of corn chips. Big Chief Wampum had a speaking part in the commercials, but he spoke in a broken Indian dialect: “Me want a Wampum, a yummy, yummy Wampum.”  Poor Big Chief! In today’s world he would be crucified and criticized as an example of racism in its highest form.

12 crispy, salty snack foods from the 1960s

J.W. Oakley School had a program to introduce us to banking. I came across my old school savings account booklet, and, as you can see, I was a big saver! To this day I still bank with Bank of America.

my adorable banking booklet
Small Town
When I was eight-years-old, our mother was forced to raise us on her own because our father left. My brothers, although, in their teens, worked to help make ends meet. When I was around thirteen, something wonderful happened to me. I received  my Social Security card and got a job. My sister Jo and I were both hired to pick tomatoes. This was a wonderful experience. For the first time in my life I felt independent. I remember getting in line to receive my daily wage of $12 cash. I thought of all the potato chips I could buy with this money, but I bought a pair of white Burmuda shorts with a brightly colored turquoise top. I’m not sure what happened, but this first paying job was short lived (three days); maybe it was because of my age or because I was being paid under the table. Only God knows. What I do remember was showing proof of my Social Security number. Sometimes I’d picked up a little extra money by babysitting the Allen kids across the street, but I was only paid 50 cents an hour, so the most I’d ever received was one dollar at a time.
I never felt that we went without. Brawley had a theater, a library and several larger grocery stores than Jin Wong’s. Our main street had several clothing stores, and if we needed more we’d drive down to El Centro. We attended church sporadically because of transportation problems. Brawley was safe and peaceful. It was the only life I knew; I never realized we lived in poverty because our mother made do with what we had. We always had clean clothes and, when there was a shortage in food, God always provided.
31 What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
When my brothers got older, they discovered the border town of Mexicali, Mexico. The night life was a lot more lively than sleepy Brawley, and in Mexicali you could consume alcohol to your heart’s content. This kept our poor mother up until the boys got home in the early morning hours. I remember one of my brothers getting  into a pretty bad car accident. This may have been one of her deciding factors for our move from Brawley.
The Move
As our struggle continued, our mother decided that she had had enough of Brawley. Mother left behind her brother Gilbert and sister Consuelo and their families to be closer to her three other sisters up North in Fresno. Our mom was the bravest person I know. How she managed to make this move was a miracle. I was saddened to leave the only town I knew. I was about to enter high school, but it was not to be. I left behind my then-boyfriend John, but we promised to stay in touch by mail. I felt really bad for my sister Jo because she was going to attend a new high school with a population double the size of Brawley High. As far as I was concerned, Fresno was a huge megalopolis with a different school system. So instead of entering high school, I was back in 9th grade because in Fresno junior high included 9th grade.
The Last Visit 

The last time I visited Brawley was for our cousin Gilbert’s funeral.  I picked up my brother Mike in Banning and then headed to Palm Desert to pick up George. Gilbert’s celebration of life was beautiful. After paying our respects, all I wanted to do was drive by our old house. I had many bittersweet memories of the home our dad built with his own hands. It was disheartening to see that most of the beautiful eucalyptus trees were removed to make room for a sidewalk on “I” street.  Our childhood home was gone, and in its place was an empty lot with semi-trucks parked in the back. Our father, who was a great builder of homes, never managed to finish ours. Instead he left us incomplete, just like the house. I was sad to see the empty lot, but I was rejoicing because no one can take away our memories of a past life.

The new sidewalk and the empty lot where our home once stood
I still have several relatives who make Brawley their home. My cousin Connie and her family still live there. Her daughter Cindy and her husband Joe recently built a beautiful custom home on a huge lot. I’m praying that she will host our next family reunion there.
My Prayer
Dear Lord, we all have sweet and bitter memories of our childhood. I ask that You heal those who hold on to the bitterness. May they move past this darkness in their lives so that they may become complete in You. Jesus, everything we experience in life, whether it be in our past or our current life, You’ve allowed to happen. As we look back, may the good always supersede the bad. Amen.
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Trusting God Through COVID Trials

The daily hair loss

The other day while waiting to be seated at a restaurant I noticed a couple walk in. I was intrigued by the young woman because she had a wad of hair stuck to the back of her dress. I wanted to pull her aside to inform her, but couldn’t think of an opening statement. I practiced in my head, “Excuse me, but you have a nest of hair on the back of your dress.” Of course I did not say a word, but I wondered how and why this happened to her. That image never left me, and now I wonder if I’m being punished for being a busybody because my hair is not only falling out but it’s actually shedding.

Dr. Google

It started about two weeks ago. I noticed a lot of hair on the light-colored tile floor of my bathroom. When I brushed my hair after washing it, the brush was covered with so much hair! Immediately I made a virtual consultation with Dr. Google. Sure enough, this is COVID-related, so I’m suffering from an episode of telogen effluvium. It’s several months later, but I’m still being affected by  the aftermath of this virus.

COVID nails

When I color my hair at home I usually make a big mess. It’s inevitable that I get color on either my arms, under my right thumbnail or both. The last time I colored my hair, all of my nails had this dark pigment. I knew it was not the hair dye, so, again, I asked Dr. Google for help. Yep, now I’ve developed melanonychia. Turns out that this, too, is from COVID. Both of these side effects are not life-threatening. All will return to normal in six to nine months, and eventually all my hair will grow back.

Halitosis

The latest side effect  is offensive; I suffer from this strange smell living in my mouth. I know it’s there because when I brush my teeth, it seems to activate something and the stench is stronger. I asked Mike, “Have you noticed if I have bad breath?” He smiled at me and said, “Yes, I was going to say something, but I didn’t want to upset you.” The masks, which I loathe, are now my constant companions; and now I respect the six-feet of distancing requirement.  I’ve become a prisoner of my own bad breath. I’m still researching if this has anything to do with COVID. I suspect it has to do with something in my intestines, so I called my primary care physician to make an appointment with the gastroenterologist. Evidently, due to understaffing, the appointment is not until the end of November and that’s just for a consultation!

Chewing gum does work for bad breath, but it’s only for a few minutes. I’ve never been a fan of chewing gum because I don’t know what to do with the chewed-up gum. I would never discard it on the ground or spit it out while driving. So I wrap it into an old receipt and keep it in my purse until it ruins the bottom of my handbag. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing gum on the sidewalks. Chewing gum is resilient and it develops a second life when the weather gets really hot. It finds its new home on the bottom of your shoes. You can’t get into your car with this adhesive on your shoes; it has to be cleaned off. For this reason Disneyland does not sell any sort of gum on its premises.

Remaining Faithful

On Tuesday I have an appointment to see how many antibodies I have left from the virus. I’m praying about which steps to take next. Despite these setbacks I have chosen to remain faithful; nothing is going to get me off track with serving God. All testings are designed to make us draw closer to Him. Even though I lament about this situation, I have no anger or blame for what I’m enduring. If God was with me during the worst part of COVID, He is with me through these minuscule problems. Something beautiful always comes from overcoming serious trials in our lives.

Drawing Closer To God

If you give up because you believe that you can’t take it any longer, you are missing the biggest blessings that God has in store for you. Blessings are part of the reward and you must learn to go through these everyday battles, knowing that you are being prepared for the war. As Christians we are going to experience persecution; in each battle we are being built up to fight whatever the Devil throws our way. With each victory comes the confidence to remain steadfast in your trust and to remain faithful. You can choose to crawl into a hole and wait for the storms to pass, or you can rise up and face the attacks. Job lost his family and all of his many possessions; he was in complete disarray. But one thing set him apart from the rest of us: he never cursed God. In his anguish he experienced so much emotional distress that his wife suggested that he should curse God and die.

Then his wife said to him, “Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?” Through all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job had an ear to hear God; though he heard the negative voices, he shut them out because he remained faithful and trusted that God would see him through. We must take into account that Job was an extremely wealthy man, but because of his faithfulness he received twice as much has he had before.

10 The Lord also restored the prosperity of Job, after he had prayed for his friends; the Lord even gave to Job twice as much as he had before.
My Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for all of my blessings. I pray for all those who are truly suffering hair loss from chemotherapy cancer treatments. They are the true warriors; please heal them. Lord, continue to teach us how to fight our daily battles with grace. When we are in the midst of trials, strengthen us to move forth in victory. May we never give up! Amen.

 

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The Upper Room

The Upper Room

The Upper Room In Jerusalem is entered through the Zion Gate. As you walk past the Jerusalem stone walls you are met by street vendors selling goods made of sesame, honey bars, and other products indigenous to the Holy Land. When the path splits into two, the walk continues toward the left until you reach a statue of David. The Jews frown upon this statue because they believe that it is an offense; Jewish culture does not venerate idols and considers this a graven image. Of the many times that I have visited, poor David has suffered amputated toes from the hands of Jews and, on several occasions, his nose has been broken.

King David’s statue

This area of the Upper Room is considered the Jewish section of the Old City. The Muslims consider this to be a mosque, but the Israelis believe the lower level of the old structure is the Tomb of David. As Christians we remain neutral; we visit both the Tomb of David but spend most of our visit in the Upper Room. This is one of my five favorites sites to visit in the Holy Land.

The Upper Room

The Upper Room, also referred to as the Cenacle, is located in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem. In this room many historic occurrences took place that changed the course of Christianity: the Last Supper, the post-Resurrection and Resurrection of the Risen Christ, Pentecost, and the introduction of the Holy Spirit.

The Last Supper

I’m sure many of you have a picture of the Last Supper in your homes. This image is etched in our hearts. The apostles were too spiritually immature to receive the powerful message that Jesus shared about His death. Their eyes were clouded with the inability to comprehend this mystical phenomenon. These chosen few were not stand out people; they would go unnoticed to the world. Yet they were hand picked by Jesus.

The Institution of the Eucharist

This also took place during the Last Supper. This is our true communion with God. The Eucharist is what brought me back to the Catholic Church. In the 15 years of wandering from one Protestant  church to another, nothing was more evident than the lack of Holy Communion. I had completed my religious journey by finding Christ in the Eucharist once again.

When I visit the Upper Room, I imagine Jesus holding up the bread and wine and consecrating it with His Holy Hands, I imagine the stillness in the room while our Lord spoke these words:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.
This is the reason a Catholic priest consecrates the bread and wine; they are Jesus personified. This is the true body and blood of Christ. This is not ordinary bread with grape juice, it’s the TRUE body and blood of Christ! It’s appalling to me that many Catholics do not understand the holiness of this part of the Mass.

Our Upper Room

Our Upper Room is a time spent in communion with God. We seek to draw closer to Him from the same place where Jesus poured out His spirit.  Jesus chose this room. He wants us to go up and visit, to stay and experience what His disciples felt, to be in complete union with Him. As I make my way up the spiritual steps to the Upper Room, sometimes I feel like Thomas, doubting  yet  desiring this emotion for growth to rise up within me. I want this encounter that the  disciples experienced, the pure love of Christ. Jesus knows we are all human and fall short. He knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Peter would deny Him not once, but three times. Our Lord also knew that Thomas would doubt His Resurrection. We all suffer conflicting guilt for not serving the Lord as we should. Even though I’m in constant prayer throughout the day,  I always feel that I should go deeper into prayer. The distractions of the world bring me out of the Upper Room, so this makes the climbing more laborious as I make my way up again. My desire is to reach the Upper Room void of all my daily burdens.  I aspire to be in the presence of our Lord and receive what He has in store for me through contemplative prayer.

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the quiet. You become one with God through emptying yourself so that the Holy Spirit can fill you. You rest in His holy presence by relaxing and breathing out all distractions. Your breathing must come naturally, not too slow, not too fast. Many times when I attempted to practice contemplative prayer in my home, my cat Prudie jumped on my belly. I can’t tell if she wants affection or if she wants to share this holy experience with me. It takes a lot of discipline to get into this spiritual zone. Believe me, many times I have attempted to reach this zenith but I failed miserably. I will not surrender to my shortcomings and will continue to attempt mastering this type of prayer.

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy cure about his prayer before the tabernacle…[Jesus’ gaze] …teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men [and women]  (Catechism of the Catholic Church No 2715)

The Holy Spirit

I mentioned earlier about the apostles not fully understanding Jesus’ powerful message in the Upper Room. Only after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them were their eyes fully opened. This is considered the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This all took place after the Resurrection, in the Upper Room. After Jesus’ Ascension, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon them. From that day on, the apostles went forth  sharing the Good News with boldness. When we are filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we, too, can change the world by witnessing the love of Christ.

My Prayer

May we all encounter You, Lord, in the Upper Room. Close all distractions, especially those of social media. Allow us in Your Holy Presence. Meet us on the way up, so that we can see Your beautiful, nail-scarred hands extended toward us. Jesus, touch our hearts to become more like You. Amen.

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