The motto would read, "When the going gets tough, we go faster."
I know my mother only gave birth to my brother and me but because of our close knit extended family, I feel like I grew up with three older brothers: Gilbert, Jaime and Paul. The clearest and most vivid memories center around them and time spent at my Grandmother's house in East L.A. I've heard that physical pain helps with imprinting memories, I think that explain a lot about my life.
One Christmas, when I was seven or eight, all the parents got together and decided to buy us Big Wheels. Lucky for us, that was the year the toy company added the spin-out break to all the Big Wheels. These huge tricycles were equipped with a hand break on the right side, rear wheel that when pulled would whip the rider around at break neck speeds.
The four of us saw these plastic death machines under Grandma's tree and lost our little minds. All the other loot we'd received paled in comparison. Here was a toy we could ride at high speeds, fling ourselves around therefore creating centrifugal force that might, if we did it right, pull our hair out of our heads! Our parents truly loved us. Either that or they figured out the perfect plan to rid themselves of sixteen to twenty years of college tuition.
After riding and spinning under our parents careful gaze, they went inside to watch football and drink. That was our cue. I was the first one to do real damage. Not known for my manual dexterity or coordination (I often fell over for no apparent reason and to this day fear being stopped for a random drunk driver test. I will flunk) I got my fingers caught in the break at the very moment I pulled it. The skin was flayed from my fingers and palm, I fell over and hit my head on the curb and lay, like a dead thing in the gutter. It took a few minutes for the three goons to notice my cries and whimpers. I was taken into the house and deposited with my mother.
The guys ended up in the triage unit in quick succession. Gilbert spun too fast and got his foot tangled up. Sprayed ankle, multiple contusions and road burns. Paul and Jaime, not to be outdone, actually ran head first into each other (they were jousting). Several groin injuries, scrapes and cuts were followed by a broken finger. Ah, family memories.
I must say my cousin, Gilbert, fled better and more often than any of us. Most people I know went through a set-everything-on-fire stage. We were no different. One of us found a lighter and brought it to Grandma's so the rest could experience the power of controlling one of the elements. Control being the operative word here. Eventually, things got out of hand and the side of the garage went up in flames. I started screaming and decrying I had nothing to do with it. Jaime tried to cover up the fire with dirt but only succeeded in adding fuel by throwing leaves and twigs on it. Paul stood stunned with a grin on his face and Gilbert ran. When the adults saw him running past the side of the house and out into the street, they came running towards us.
As we grew the necessity for Gilbert to run came less and less often. He and my aunt Flora were having a fight about whatever mothers and sons fight about. She was in the kitchen cooking dinner and began making her point while shaking herfavorite ten inch knife at him.
Thinking himself immortal, Gilbert yelled, "Go ahead and through it!!"
My aunt is not a stable woman and most people know not to toy with her. She threw the knife and Gilbert swears he heard it whistle past his head and thud into the wall.
And like all good Jimenez's do in times of trouble, Gilbert ran.
Copyright 1997 by Laura Jiménez.