I was a pretty happy child growing up. Although, looking back, I regret not being thankful for the little things. Do you you remember how elementary school was not difficult? How, life was not that hard? And how the most important person in your life was there for you? Those are the moments I wish I could go back to and enjoy one last time, just so I could be grateful for before I realized that they’d have an end to.
Elementary school was easy. It seemed to me like it wouldn’t end, but here I am now. An 8th grader about to go into high school. Time Flies. Tick tock, Tick tock. Back then, class consisted of coloring, reading easy books, eagerly raising your hand to answer the teacher’s question, and going out to recess. Did I mention getting into trouble? Getting into trouble was bad. Don’t get me wrong, it was and still is, but it’s not that bad when all you were doing was having fun. The only time I remember getting into trouble in 5th grade was whenever I played “Spin the Pencil” with some friends. Spin the Pencil? What in tarnation is that? It’s like “Spin the Bottle” but you use a pencil instead, and kissing is replaced with hugging. I told my birth giver that day that I would stay after school for a dance class or tutorials. Truth is, I lied. I actually stayed after school to hang out with my homegirls and my crush. We played around with each other until we became bored and “created” Spin The Pencil. We circled up around a table real close as if we were telling each other secrets or as if we were a team huddled up, scheming up strategies to demolish the other team. As we played I got nervous, slowly my hands became damp and sticky, my heart pumped so fast I thought it’d explode, and I was afraid that HE would notice. HE is the only one I noticed. Whenever he would spin, the sound of the pencil against the table seemed to get louder than when all my other friends spun it. I so badly wanted the pencil lead to point at me when it was his turn to spin. I wanted the pencil to shout, “YOU. YOU’RE THE ONE. I CHOOSE YOU!”. That way, I’d get the chance to feel his warm, comfortable arms wrap around my body. I remember I was also scared I wouldn’t let go once he hugged me, and if he did. The game didn’t last long because then teachers began to ask us what it was we were doing but they didn’t need an answer, because despite our speechless expression, our eyes spoke guilt and shame. I later got into trouble with my mom, but it was no biggie. When I look back at that moment in elementary school I think about how careless I was. I lied to my mom, I got into trouble, but it seemed ok to me. I was a kid so I can’t really expect something different. I can’t quite figure out what I would’ve done differently if I could go back. I just know that I’d enjoy being careless and free again, because now, I admit I can be careless sometimes, but things are harder. People expect more from me and if I let them down I’m just a disappointment. Life was just not that hard.
Everyday after school ended, the teacher would dismiss us from class and I would walk home with my dad. He would wait outside the school building, with a grin on his face, his glasses below his dark bushy eyebrows, and his newly, short cropped, black hair. While we walked close together on our way home, we would always have something to talk about. My dad started the conversation calling me by the nickname he gave me, “Changa” meaning monkey in Spanish. I loved that nickname. It was a father-daughter thing, that no one could ever take away from us. He then asked about school, and I loved how he cared, and how he worried and wanted a good future for me. He would make me laugh and as the sound of my laugh echoed through the streets, it seemed as if all my worries or other thoughts vanished into the blue. I would glance at him when I laughed and his eyes were bright like the same blue sky, his smile made my heart throb from happiness. We would get home all happy, and as I walked through the front door of my home, a great smell made its way from the kitchen and into my nose. It smelled delicious! I ate with my dad and siblings, and once I finished I would go do my homework. I remember homework back then was so little compared to today’s assigned homework, talk about change.. and stress! I had lots of time left from when I finished my homework to when it was time for me to go to bed . In between that time I would lay down on the couch with my brother and my dad, and we’d watch Tv. By the time I had to go to sleep I didn’t and wouldn’t see my mom because she’d always work. A lot. My relationship with her is pretty good although we hardly talk. It’s ok, I knew she loved me, besides I wasn’t alone. I had dad. That’s how I would describe the perfect day. I would go to school and laugh and have fun with all of my friends, I would then walk home from school and have conversations with my dad, once I got home there’d be food waiting for me to chomp and munch on, homework would be done in a split second, and I’d be in my families company until it was time to go to sleep. The perfect day would most of the time repeat. Until things changed.
In 3rd grade, my dad passed away. It was something hard to deal with, and go through. Things weren’t the same anymore. I missed him, I missed him a lot. He was the most important person in my life. My dad. He was always there for me, he made me smile, he cared, he taught me so much, it was all him! When he passed away I felt as if a chunk from my heart had been ripped away. I soon got used to him being gone and sometimes I even forgot! Why was that? Why? I would forget and when I’d see a picture of him, that feeling of absence would hit me again. SMACK. Right in the face. “He’s gone.” I wish I could go back once more to enjoy his company a little longer. Because although I loved our walks and conversations, I took them for granted sometimes. I thought they’d always be there and I thought wrong. May my dad Rest In Peace, and God rest his soul, although he is no longer here on earth I will hold his values and memories close.
If I could give advice to anyone out there reading, I would say to them to enjoy and be thankful for the little things. That’s what I Valentina Salazar, would say.