All posts by eddiemgarcia

360 Days

President, Board of Trustees, East Side Union High School District ~ 2010

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 11: 360 Days

June 10, 2009, was graduation day for my high school alma mater. That morning kicked of a dizzying 360 days of tireless work and ambition. With my day job coming to an end, I rushed to the elevator to go ten floors down to the lobby of the County Administration Building. I hustled across a breezeway to my car. My next engagement was at James Lick High School, where I was to preside over the graduation ceremonies on behalf of the board of trustees. The formalities had all of the excitement and anticipation fitting a high school graduation. 

At the ceremony, the sound of a recorded version of “Pomp and Circumstance” started blaring over the stadium speakers. Wearing a black suit with a white shirt and dark green tie, I walked proudly onto the field next to the principal and found my seat on the stage. The faculty followed us to find their seats on the field. Graduates then filed into the stadium with their green and white gowns and tassels flowing in the wind to the cheers of family and friends. Standing up to watch the spectacle, I couldn’t help but think of my rocky road to this stage and how proud I was to preside over the very ceremony that my brothers, sisters, and I participated in so many years before.

Several months after my triumphant return to James Lick High School’s graduation, the school board elected me president for 2010. Once again, drive and ambition dominated my life. The new year started at full throttle. In my role as school board president, I could set the district’s agenda for the year. A student group, Californians for Justice, had been lobbying the board for over five years to institute a policy to make graduation requirements the same as college entrance requirements. Their effort was called the A-G Initiative. As president of the board, I had the ability to lead that effort. If successful, I could further solidify my chances to win the election in November.

The A-G Initiative became the centerpiece of my State of the District Address in January 2010, which I delivered to an overflow crowd at James Lick High School. In spite of the teachers union’s aggressive behind-the-scenes fight against the initiative, I enlisted the support of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation to educate the community on the merits of the initiative and put together a coalition of students, parents, and public officials to campaign for its passage. Adding to my workload, the inaugural class of a non-profit leadership academy I co-founded was scheduled to start soon. In response to my leadership on A-G, the teachers union had recruited a disgruntled former district superintendent to challenge me in the general election scheduled for November. 

The pressure and stress were almost unbearable, but this is exactly what I had sought since returning to college. To top it off, I was having fun. Sandra continued to express concern about how the pace was taking a toll on me. But I didn’t listen. I had failures to overcome. Ambition and energy drove me harder and harder. Sandra was right though, I was exhausted. Adrenaline fueled by my drive to succeed, and a steady infusion of Starbucks double vanilla lattes kept me working at a feverish pace.

***

Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

Rocky Road to Redemption

Professional Business Card ~ 2006

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 10: Rocky Road to Redemption

I committed to putting all that energy into spending time with my family and building a career as a corporate executive. As it turned out, I spent more time chasing the elusive concept of success than I did enjoying my family. I wanted to be a good husband and father, and I loved being with Sandra and the girls. I made sure that I was home for dinner every night I was in town and available for as many school and family events as possible.

For several years, I coached Erica’s Little League teams. It wasn’t unusual to hear the kids shout, “Coach García is wearing a suit again.” Those were days when I ran out right after practice to be on time for an evening event or business dinner. Despite efforts to be a fully engaged father, my professional ambitions took the lion’s share of my time.

I began working for a major American corporation with countless opportunities for those who wanted to get ahead. During a tour of Comcast facilities in San Jose, the new senior vice president for the California region stepped into my sparse office and asked about my background, family, and plans for the future. I filled him in with the basics about Sandra and the girls and boldly proclaimed that I wanted to be a vice president someday soon. I became familiar to executives at corporate headquarters as a valued representative of the company, especially with Latino political organizations. Before long, I was in Los Angeles; Washington, DC; Dallas; Santa Fe; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, representing Comcast at national meetings of Latino public policy makers.

In March 2003, my sister Patty, just forty-nine years old, suddenly died from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by an infection from a virus. My mind swirled, trying to find answers in the confusion. Patty had been in great shape; she ate well, rarely stressed about anything, yet she died of a bad heart. A few days later, I was given the honor of speaking at her memorial service.

At just thirty-nine years old, I intensified my self-imposed urgency to achieve redemption. Upon returning to the office, I immediately put all my energy into working harder than ever before. A few months later, the senior VP in California informed me that I had been selected, at his recommendation, to participate in the exclusive Comcast Executive Leadership Forum. The Executive Leadership Forum was by invitation only. Word on the Comcast street was that those who completed the program were soon sitting in executive chairs. I was excited about starting the program and moving forward after the stunning death of my sister.

Just as my professional prospects were looking up, my personal life took another downturn. In December, Mom suddenly died of sepsis, a blood infection related to her years-long battle with kidney failure. Once again, I found myself at a podium delivering a eulogy. I was devastated. Patty’s sudden death was startling and compelled me to think about my health. Mom’s passing was crippling and forced me to think about life without my first love and emotional anchor. She had been the glue that kept everything together. Her unconditional love kept me afloat during the darkest of times. I was sad, scared, and not sure how I would get through the tough times that were sure to come.

***

Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

The Comeback

The author, the book cover, and the artist in her studio ~ 2022

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 9: The Comeback

After completing college, I threw the original plan of earning a teaching credential, which would have taken another three semesters, to the wayside. My dream of becoming a teacher was subservient to my need to begin a career. Not sure what a twenty-nine-year-old college graduate with a history degree could do other than teach high school history, I wondered what direction to pursue and where the opportunities might be.

 I applied for jobs with the city of Santa Clara, the high school district, a state assemblyman’s office, and secured a job interview as a legislative assistant to an acclaimed San Jose councilwoman who was an icon in the neighborhood of my youth. After two more months of anxious job hunting, the councilwoman offered, and I accepted, a three-quarter-time position in her office. She also had recently been named vice mayor of San Jose.

The next three and a half years were an exciting time for me. After several months, I earned a full-time position as a legislative aide, working on community development and controversial public art projects. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to learn about the public policymaking process and the rough and tumble world of local politics. I worked tirelessly, never turning down an assignment or a night out at a political event. When her tenure ended because of term limits, she asked me to manage her campaign for the county board of supervisors. I was flattered, excited, and apprehensive as I had never even worked on a campaign, much less managed one.

I learned invaluable skills and lifelong political lessons during the intense six-month campaign. The race wasn’t decided until the wee hours of the morning after Election Day. I had taken myself to the limits physically, emotionally, and mentally. After the early morning victory, I spent the next thirteen months in her office as a senior policy aide on the county board of supervisors. Within months of assuming my new position, I was itching to do more.

I was thirty-one years old working as an aide to a local politician. While it was a job I couldn’t have imagined as a kid, it wasn’t good enough to erase the years I had lost in my personal wilderness or dispose of the demons that continued to haunt me from that time. Research professor and author Brené Brown refers to the phenomenon as a Culture of Scarcity. She writes that we get stuck in a cycle: “We’re never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough.” A strategy many people use to overcome the pattern of “never enough” is to work harder, achieve more, and broaden ambition. These tactics usually lead to a deeper sense of scarcity that intensifies the desire to succeed, which perpetuates the cycle of never enough. It was just a couple of years post college graduation, and I was rushing headlong toward a hurricane of insatiable aspirations.

One Sunday morning, I stumbled onto a rare job announcement for a government affairs manager at the local cable company. I dazzled the hiring manager at the interview and was invited to meet executives at the division office in Walnut Creek a few days later. I was nervous and excited to meet corporate executives, something I never would have thought was possible just a few years earlier. The meetings went well, and I got the job. My life would never be the same. 

***

Kindle users can pre-order Summer in the Waiting Room today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

Settling Down

Eddie, Sandra, and Mickey @ Disneyland ~ late 1980s

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 8: Settling Down

With Sandra’s support and the foundation created by this tightly knit family environment, I slowly began to emerge from the abyss of failure. The fall we began dating, I applied for and accepted a position to coach the frosh-soph boys’ basketball team at the high school across the street from Most Holy Trinity Church. I worked well with the student athletes and the school administration, further evidence that college and a career in education were my path to redemption.

The next year, in a sudden twist of fate, the head basketball coach at my alma mater resigned just weeks before the season began. My return to college would have to wait because James Lick High School hired me to run its basketball program, which included a full-time job as an instructional aide. The values I learned at 48 Viewmont Avenue served me well as I worked hard to rebuild a program that had won only two games the year before. By the end of my second season, we had won half our games in the regular season and recorded a 12-2 record at the San Jose City College summer league. We lost the championship game to a county powerhouse. That same summer, James Lick High School rewarded me with the school’s coach-of-the-year award.

On Valentine’s Day in 1989, while still coaching at James Lick High School, I made the first decision I had ever made toward true adult responsibility. I finally found the nerve and wisdom to propose to Sandra. I settled on a one-quarter-karat solitaire marquise diamond. Placing it in the black velvet box provided by the store, I went to basketball practice as usual. After the workout, I called Sandra from the coach’s office and asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. I didn’t tell her where we were going. When we rolled up to the drive-in service at Mark’s Hot Dogs, Sandra mentioned how she was surprised because we hadn’t been there since that first awkward date almost four years before.

We ordered a couple of hot dogs with everything on them, chips, and two Cokes. When the server left the food on the tray that hung from the driver’s side window, I slipped the velvet box next to our order. I passed some napkins to Sandra, and she carefully spread them on her lap. Next came the tray with the hot dog, chips, and soda. As she took a sip of the Coke, I slipped the velvet box onto the tray in one swift motion.

She took a small bite of the dog, paused, turned her head toward me with a puzzled look on her face, and asked, “What’s this?” I opened the box and asked her to marry me. She sat speechless for what seemed like forever. Her big brown eyes lovingly penetrated deep into my soul. A warm, giddy feeling engulfed me and caused my stomach to swirl with exhilaration. When she actually uttered the word yes, we kissed and held each other in an affectionate and tearful embrace. Soon we were on our way to Santiago Avenue so I could formally and properly ask her parents for permission to marry their daughter.

***

Kindle users can pre-order Summer in the Waiting Room now by clicking here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZFC5HFX?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Familia Peralta

Familia Peralta ~ 2017

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 7: Familia Peralta

During those long phone calls between our first and second dates, I got to know Sandra very well. She’s the second of four daughters born to Fausto and Connie Peralta. He was a construction worker and she a cannery worker. They built a family with their four daughters: Valerie, Sandra, Kimberley, and Shelley. Raising four girls was a challenge for Fausto and Connie as each woman has her own distinct personality. Collectively, the Peralta girls made an impression at Silver Creek High School and proudly call San Jose State University their alma mater. A large photo of the sisters standing together, resplendent in college cap and gown under the shadow of the university’s ivy-covered Tower Hall, sits in the entryway of the Peralta house.

Valerie was born in Fresno, California, in 1961. She grew to be a strong-willed girl who did well in school, participated in the cheerleading squad in high school. 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 that seeks compromise and accommodation whenever possible. The youngest of the Peralta dynasty from Silver Creek High School is Shelley, born exactly ten years after Valerie on December 28, 1971. She 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 are intensely loyal to their own individual families, each other, their parents, and extended family and friends.

Once Sandra and I started dating on a regular basis, I realized that acceptance into 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.

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.” We sometimes worked construction jobs with Mr. Peralta to make extra money and often helped each other with household projects. When Kimberley and her husband, Miguel Rocha, were dating in college, she turned to me often for advice. Once I got to know Miguel, we soon learned that we shared the same intense ambition of achieving success at the highest level possible. Shelley’s husband, Pancho Leyva, and I have a passion for sports. During our younger days, we were a mischievous team when the beer started flowing.

I have a true affection for Eddie, Miguel, and Pancho. 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.

Sandra Peralta

Sandra in her Firebird at Welch Park ~ 1985

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 6: Sandra Peralta

During the day and on weekends, I was peddling shoes at Kinney’s. During the week, I coached a Catholic school baseball team at Welch Park in east San Jose. One day, while hitting ground balls at practice, I noticed a shiny car slowly rolling down Santiago Avenue, the roadway that ran between Welch Park and the row of houses across the street. The driver of that silver 1984 Firebird turning left into the driveway of the house right across the street from home plate would forever change my life.

Every day I stopped practice, to the merriment of the thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys, as the beautiful young woman drove up to her house. I watched her gather belongings from the car, sling her backpack over one shoulder, and sip a soda as she walked into the garage that led to the house. Day in and day out, every afternoon, like clockwork, she rolled down the street and turned into the driveway in her silver Firebird. I always stopped practicing to watch her routine. The adolescent boys chuckled and teased at the spectacle.

After a week or so, the mischievous boys dared me to walk across the street and ask her out on a date. As I approached her in the garage, I finally had the chance to see her up close. She took my breath away. She had smooth, fair skin; high cheekbones; long, flowing brown hair combed in the style of the day; big brown doe eyes; and cute lips that curled just slightly at the top. With confident reserve, she said, “My name is Sandra.” I nervously introduced myself. I shuffled my feet without taking my eyes off her eyes and mumbled several things I don’t remember. She left me speechless. I didn’t have the courage to ask her out, even though that’s not what I told my players.

During the next several weeks, the kids on the team kept asking if I had gone out on a date with Sandra. I told them with authority that a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell. Of course, there were no kisses and nothing to tell. Every afternoon, when she slipped out of her car, I waved my hand to say hello in an effort to catch her attention, but I don’t remember if she ever waved back. When the baseball season ended, I had no reason to go back to Welch Park. I kicked myself for not asking Sandra for her telephone number. 

A couple of months after the garage encounter, I was hitting the town with old high school friends barhopping. I suggested that we stop at a wedding at the invitation of a friend. On that summer night in 1985, I walked into the reception hall wearing a dark suit and blue tie acting like I owned the place. I instantly saw Sandra. She was radiant, wearing a navy-blue pencil skirt and starched white blouse. She smiled demurely when our eyes made contact. Up to this point, Sandra and I agree on how the events unfolded. We have vastly different perspectives on what happened during the next few minutes. I remember walking to Sandra and respectfully asking her to dance. She insisted that I waved from across the room and pointed to the dance floor, as if to say, “Meet me there.” We’re the only witnesses to the disputed incident, so I’m sure the whole episode will go with us to our respective graves. Nevertheless, we danced.

Mark Your Calendar!

Book cover design and artwork by Erica García ~ proyectoxtra.com

***MARK YOUR CALENDAR***

June 7, 2022

The book will be available in paperback and on Kindle.

***

BOOK SYNOPSIS

My mind swirled with random thoughts that ranged from doom to confusion to relief. Could I be having a heart attack? We got to the elevator in the hospital and went down one floor. When the elevator doors opened, we raced across the lobby straight into the emergency room, where I arrived at 7:41 p.m. Three doctors wearing white smocks waited for us. Within seconds, I got my answer. One of the doctors said, in a calm and matter-of-fact voice, “Mr. García, you’re having a heart attack.” ~ June 7, 2010 (page 90)

***

Summer in the Waiting Room is Eddie García’s true story about youthful promise, unfulfilled potential, temporary success, catastrophic illness, and spiritual awakening. After flunking out of college, he goes on a frenetic quest to vanquish failure demons and achieves short-lived vindication through college graduation and career accomplishments. A sudden heart attack and rare lung complication lead to a hopeless summer clinging to life in the ICU. In the end, he goes on a spiritual journey that leads to a remarkable recovery and long-lasting redemption. 

Readers who face desperate situations will be inspired by Eddie’s story. Many families turn to prayer to help them endure devastating setbacks. Summer in the Waiting Room is a detailed and inspiring story about how a near death experience, modern medicine, and faith in God converge to nourish one family’s optimism in faith, hope, and love. 

Eddie’s experience as an ICU patient gives readers a firsthand account of what it takes to survive a life-threatening health crisis. He uses medical records and personal interviews to create a fast-paced narrative about how his life story led to a frightening and ultimately uplifting summer. Eddie brings to life his carefree youth, personal struggles, professional success, and courageous fight for life. Summer in the Waiting Room is sure to bring smiles and hope to those who feel hopeless.

***

Eddie García ~ 2022

Eddie García is a heart attack and heart transplant survivor. In 2010, a massive blockage in an artery referred to as the “widow maker” led to a decade of living with  congestive heart failure. A successful heart transplant in 2020 inspired him to tell his story. He is the author of ESEReport.com, a blog that shares his experiences as a working-class kid, public servant, corporate executive, and heart attack survivor to uplift readers with faith, hope, and love. Eddie lives in San Jose, California with his wife Sandra. They have two grown daughters, Marisa and Erica. (Photo by Buggsy Malone ~ @buggsy_malone_13)

Hail, Spartans, Hail!

Iconic Tower Hall ~ San Jose State University

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 5: Hail, Spartans, Hail!

Registration day at San Jose State was overwhelming. Thousands of people waited in long lines to sign up for classes at the tables spread out on the large lawn of the main quad. The university’s iconic ivy-covered tower stood guard over the entire scene. That first semester, I took a full load of courses that included science, math, history, English, and of course basketball for physical education.

At school, I was on my own. Professors didn’t constantly remind students to complete reading assignments, homework didn’t have to be submitted on a daily basis, and there were just a few midterm and final exams. Since I loved to read, this was going to be easier than I thought, so I paid more attention to developing a social life as a college student. After classes, I read a little bit at the library, then walked over to the student center looking to meet people. Unlike in high school, however, I was having a hard time making friends. SJSU was a commuter college, so the students were, on average, older than traditional college students. Everyone seemed busy, serious, and in a hurry to leave campus. I was still seventeen years old.

Fortunately, football season was in full swing. I went back to the comfort of the cocoon and used my status as a student to get cheap tickets for my friends. They were either working or trying to figure out what to do in their next phase of life. At Spartan Stadium, we crashed tailgate parties, checked out girls, and watched college football. In the stands, we acted like a bunch of drunken hooligans cheering the team onto victory. SJSU won the conference championship that year. With fists pumping in the air, we shouted in unison with the student section, “Hail, Spartans, hail!” Viewmont Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood had gone to college.

Soon I began to leave campus right after classes like the other commuter students, bypassing the library and student center. I went straight home to read before I went to work at the shoe store. On days off, I got together with the guys to drink beer and hang out. My academic performance was predictable. I earned a B in history and English, an A in PE, and dropped the math and science classes to avoid failing grades. I registered for a full load of five classes the next semester, adding a Spanish class to my schedule of general education courses. I took classes haphazardly rather than for a declared major or a specific road map toward graduation.

One night while drinking at a friend’s house, a former schoolmate, who I’m sure was envious of me, told everyone there that I was wasting my time going to college. I was meant to be a working stiff like everyone else from the neighborhood, he said. Drunk and depressed, I believed every word.

When the third semester of college came to an end, my academic career at San Jose State collapsed. The bright future that my parents, teachers, and many others had predicted had vanished. San Jose State University sent a certified letter to inform me that I had been academically disqualified from the university. I flunked out. There was no cocoon to protect me. I now had to find a way to protect myself from the cocoon. With my self-worth completely eroded, I dove deeper into the abyss of self-destruction.

Next time: My life continues to spiral in another excerpt from Chapter 5…

Leaving the Cocoon (Part 2)

Co-Captains, James Lick High School Varsity Baseball ~ 1981

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 4: Leaving the Cocoon

Outside the safe confines of Viewmont Avenue, I lived in two different worlds. While in class in high school, I was with the smart kids, learning about algebra, geometry, biology, and Shakespeare. After school, I was either working part time at Kinney Shoes or running around with my best friend Rudy and the guys. At first, this arrangement worked out just fine as I figured out how to straddle the different social circles. But, I began to feel like I didn’t fit into either. To avoid looking like such a geek to my neighborhood friends, I did homework less frequently and didn’t walk everywhere with my books under my arm. Fortunately, I was good at taking tests to keep my report card slightly better than average. To maintain my place with the popular quad dwellers, I focused on basketball and baseball so I could be one of the “big men on campus.”

My substandard performance in the classroom finally caught up to me when I met with the school guidance counselor during the spring of senior year to discuss options after graduation. His name was Russell Bailey. Mr. Bailey was a portly Irish man in his late fifties with piercing blue-green eyes, thinning black hair slicked back so it looked like it was stuck to his scalp, and a large head holding thick jowls that hung from his face. Sitting behind his desk and talking in a booming voice, he looked and sounded intimidating as he opened my file and began to lay out my options. He told me that my poor study skills, a mediocre 2.72 grade point average, and an average SAT score left me with few options other than trade school, work, or maybe community college. I sat in front of his desk stunned, scared, and confused. Everything had always worked out for me. I told Mr. Bailey that my parents, friends, siblings, everyone, expected me to attend college. I quietly listened as he bluntly told me that community college was the only option.

Later that evening at dinner, while sitting around the round kitchen table, I shared the results of the meeting with Mr. Bailey with my parents. Mom looked at me with a puzzled facial expression. Dad continued eating without looking up from his plate or saying a word. I went to bed that night with a huge lump in my stomach trying to figure out how I was going to avoid my parents in the morning.

The next day at school, during the midmorning break, I was at the table with the guys when a voice over the public address system directed me to go to the office immediately. As I nervously walked to the office, the boys at the table playfully teased me because it looked like the schoolboy had finally gotten into trouble. When I arrived, the secretary motioned toward Mr. Bailey’s office, where he was standing by the door waiting for me with a forced smile on those heavy jowls. Walking into the office, I found my dad sitting in the chair I had sat in the day before. His face beamed with the same smile that had attracted my mom so many years before. I was more confused and nervous than ever. Dad never took a day off work. I stood motionless, trying to figure out what was going on. Mr. Bailey explained to me that my grade point average and SAT scores met the minimum requirements to apply for acceptance to San Jose State University. He was prepared to help me with the application process. Once again, the cocoon saved me. I was on my way to college, but with major chinks in the armor that had protected me throughout my life.

Next Time: ~ Chapter 5: Hail, Spartans, Hail!

Leaving the Cocoon

Safely in the cocoon with my big sister Barbara – late 1960s

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 4: Leaving the Cocoon

 I was about four years old and playing in the front yard. Those were the days when parents didn’t seem worried that their kids were running around in front of the house. I remember playing on the grass and eyeing the old two-toned orange-and-white Ford Mercury sitting in the narrow one-car driveway, thinking about driving just like my dad. As the car sat majestically in the driveway, I thought about how strong and important I would look behind the wheel. When I noticed my mom had left the kitchen window, probably to go to the refrigerator to take food out for dinner, I darted to the car and struggled to open the heavy driver’s side door. I then jumped onto the bench seat behind the steering wheel and started off on my imaginary road trip.

As I spread my arms wide to maneuver the big round steering wheel, I strained my neck as high as I could so that my little head peeked over the dashboard to see the road ahead. Eyeing the gearshift on the steering column, I was ready to kick into high gear just like my dad would do to send this big hunk of metal roaring down the highway. There was just one problem. Our driveway sat on a slight incline. As I grabbed the gearshift to make my move, the car started moving—backward!

The car rolled back slowly off the driveway until it came to a complete stop in the middle of the street. I sat in the car, not sure what to do next. My mom screamed from the kitchen window and dashed out the front door to save her baby boy. My dad stood on the front lawn laughing. This may have been the first indication that I was willing to take a risk to get what I wanted. This was my life in the cocoon at 48 Viewmont Avenue. I was lucky to have others around to keep the neighborhood safe and secure. 

When I started junior high school in the sixth grade, I realized that the world outside Viewmont Avenue wasn’t very safe. I was the target of an eighth-grade bully who would hide behind a post or a wall at school and jump in front of me to keep me from getting to class on time. After being marked tardy a few times, I figured that I better do something about it, or I would be in trouble with the school and with my parents.

Preparing for my confrontation, I rallied the neighborhood kids to be at my side so my chances of surviving would be better off, especially if I ended up on the losing end of the battle. The next day at school, as expected, the bully jumped out from behind a wall and started toward me. I was scared and nervous but prepared myself for the first scuffle of my life outside the roughhousing I took from Stevie from time to time. When the bully saw that my defenses had suddenly multiplied, he backed off quickly and ran the other way. I learned from that adventure outside the cocoon. Walking to school and class with a few friends every day became a good habit. I dodged a bullet, but my days in the protective cocoon of Viewmont Avenue would come to an end sooner or later.

Next Time ~ Chapter 5: Hail Spartans Hail…