Sandra’s oldest sister Valerie was born in Fresno, California, in 1961, just before Fausto and Connie moved to San Jose. She was an only child for five years and thrived under the attention paid to her by her parents. She grew to be a strong-willed girl who did well in school and participated in the cheerleading squad in high school and graduated from college with a degree in computer science. She is a loyal sister who is always available to lend moral support.
The birth of Kimberley, the third Peralta daughter, came three years after Sandra in 1969. Like her older sisters, Kimberley did well in the classroom and participated in after-school activities such as the marching band. Kimberley has a nurturing and faithful character who seeks compromise and accommodation whenever possible. She completed her college studies in business administration partly to help her father achieve the dream of having a businesswoman in the family.
The youngest of the Peralta clan from Silver Creek High School is Shelley, born exactly ten years after Valerie on December 28, 1971. Shelley, who earned her college degree in social work, is unassumingly intelligent, yet boisterous and independent with a fiery spirit that can be witty in one instance and cynical the next. All four sisters have one trait in common: they are intensely loyal to their own individual families, and to each other, their parents, and extended family and friends.
Once Sandra and I started dating on a regular basis, I realized that acceptance to the family required developing a relationship with each sister on a one-on-one basis in addition to building trust with Sandra’s parents. Although this was a tall order for a young man mired in his failures and ambiguous future, my upbringing centered on respect and integrity and my accommodating personality, not to mention my absolute adoration of Sandra, set the foundation for my relationship with the Peralta family.
My relationship with Mr. Peralta seemed to begin almost instantaneously one Sunday over a beer when I told him that my grandmother Joaquina was born in Sahuaripa, a village just over the mountains from his hometown; seventy kilometers as the bird flies, but an eight-hour drive through the rugged mountains of Sonora, Mexico. Although my Spanish is about as good as his English, we hit it off right away. Sandra had to drive me home that day because I drank a few too many beers and participated in my fair share of storytelling.
With Mrs. Peralta, I learned quickly that I would earn trust and acceptance by respecting her home and her daughters, which, with the exception of one early verbal scrap with Shelley, I was able to accomplish soon after I started to frequently visit Santiago Avenue. Valerie had been married for several months before Sandra made that birthday cake for me, so she wasn’t living at the house on Santiago Avenue when I started to see Sandra regularly. My relationship with Valerie has always been one based on respect, understanding, and acceptance of one another.
Kimberley and Shelley are my de facto little sisters, I served as an open ear to listen to their adolescent problems when they were younger and still provide counsel to them as adults. Due to our similar accommodating personalities, Kimberley and I always got along just fine, and although Shelley and I had that early altercation, we grew to admire and care for each other as siblings sharing the qualities of a quick wit and a sarcastic tongue.
Over the years, I also developed deep and strong relationships with the Peralta girls’ husbands. Valerie’s husband Eddie Velez and I became close as we were the “big brothers” who sometimes worked with Mr. Peralta on side jobs to make extra money and helped each other with household projects. He’s the handyman of the group, so he’s always available to help with a bad electrical fuse, cable TV connection, or nagging computer problem. Both of us are loyal San Francisco Giants and 49ers fans, so baseball and football seasons always prove to be fun.
When Kimberley and her husband Miguel Rocha were dating in college, she turned to me often for advice, and once I got to know Miguel, we soon learned that we both shared the same intense ambition of achieving success at the highest level possible, he as a businessman and I in politics. I love picking his brain and sharing ideas on how we could come up with a successful business plan or two. We’re both natural salesmen (some would say bullshitters) and I’m sure it’s hilarious watching us trying to sell each other on an idea.
Shelley’s husband, Pancho Leyva, and I have a passion for sports, and in our younger days, we were a mischievous team when the beer started flowing. Perhaps our best time together was when he and I sat a few rows behind home plate at AT&T Park the night San Francisco Giants home run king Barry Bonds hit his 500th homerun against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’ll never forget watching Pancho, the die-hard, blue-bleeding Dodger faithful, high-fiving Giants fans and enthusiastically waving an orange towel in recognition of Bonds’ historic achievement.
I have a true affection for each of them, and together we are about as close as any four brothers could be. Sandra’s parents, her three sisters, and my three compadres would play a major role in the events that unfolded in the summer of 2010.
Next Week: My relationship with Sandra continues to grow and I find the courage to ask her to get married.