Ken Leighton 7:59 a.m., May 22
When my daughter and I moved into Greencrest Mobile Home Park in 1991, my parents were worried about sending Amy to Felicita School. It was not in the best of neighborhoods. Even though they wanted to pay for her to attend the Lutheran School across the street, I said, "No, the kids at Felicita are a part of her heritage too." Our last name was Santa Cruz, and while her dad wasn't Mexican but Spanish and Native American, he had grown up in East Los Angeles where "if you weren't black, you were Mexican," and so he was a "Mexican."
Charles, who is now deceased. was the seventh of eight boys. At first, the family spoke only Spanish at home, but then the older kids didn't do well in school. And so they switched to English, and the younger kids didn't learn Spanish. While Charles wasn't particularly proficient, he did learn enough on the street to get by.
Unfortunately, he left my daughter's life when she was only two. In order to allow her to experience her culture, she attended Kindergarten at Felicita, where there were about thirty kids in the class, twenty-nine Hispanics, if you count my daughter, and one blonde anglo boy.
While waiting for my daughter to get out of class each day, I didn't feel comfortable waiting with the other ladies. They always shunned me; the only one who was friendly was the mother of the anglo boy. Then my daughter would cry at home because she said she "had no friends." This was not like her because she had attended day care on the Palomar College campus and had loved it.
After talking to her teacher, I was perplexed. Mrs. S. insisted that my daughter did have friends, but when I'd ask her about it, she'd insist she didn't. Finally, I decided to see for myself. At recess time, I put on my sneakers and walked by the school. My daughter was always alone while the other kids laughed and played around her. I knew the teacher was lying but I didn't know why.
During the last week of school, another parent called to ask if I would bring cups for the barbecue that she was planning. I felt a bit ill at ease with her because I had asked if her daughter could play with mine and she had given me an odd answer about how her daughter had just started attending an after school program and she didn't want her to miss it. Well, there was the weekends...
On the day of the party, I arrived with my daughter and the party cups. Most of the mothers knew each other and of course, spoke Spanish. I knew enough of the language to get the gist of what was going on, but mostly I sat off to the side. When it was time to serve the burgers, every child got served but mine. We both waited patiently, but the woman with the hamburger turner in her hand completely ignored us and went right on jabbering in Spanish.
After five or ten minutes went by, my daughter started whining and I'd had enough. I went to the barbecue and got a hamburger for my daughter. The woman then turned to me and asked, "Why did you do that? I was just going to give her one." in a snotty tone. I ignored her, and didn't say a word when the ladies poured punch out of a jug that I had tried earlier. Something was wrong with it; the flavor was off. I had tried to tell someone at the time, but was simply blown off.
After my daughter ate, I decided it was time to go. As I headed for the door, the woman who had planned the fiesta shoved the bag of cups at me that I had brought. "We didn't need these," she said in a hostile tone.
I took them from her and replied, "Why am I not surprised?"