The Methamorphosis of Me.(Part 1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Many of you may know a little about my life. You may have read my writings about my military life, and how war changed me from a naïve young boy, into a disillusioned and scarred man, with no time in between the two to savor the pleasures and wonders of being a young man.

THE METAMORPHOSIS OF ME

By Al Garcia

Many of you may know a little about my life.  You may have read my writings about my military life, and how war changed me from a naïve young boy, into a disillusioned and scarred man, with no time in between the two to savor the pleasures and wonders of being a young man.  You also know about my retirement, and about my returning to my roots in the Rio Grande Valley, where I experienced an awakening of my past, and began to rediscovery the treasure of all the brave hearts who helped to mold and shape the outline of the man I have become.

What many of you may not know, however, is how it all began.  It is an ordinary story, as old as time, predictable and unsurprising.  It is a story lived by many young people who grew up along the Rio Grande, and one well-remembered by those who left their nest in search of themselves, and then returned to savor the memories of their youth, and the best years of their lives. 

I was born in 1948, approaching the era of the “fabulous ‘50s” – the postwar era and the baby boom era.  This was also a troubled and turbulent time in America, when young men searched for purpose, for meaning, and self?discovery.  Unlike other times in history, however, Americans of every type and every shade were just starting to find the potency of their voice and the might and strength of their convictions.  I arrived, I thrived, and I survived. 

The 1950s was also a time of economic prosperity and the time of Brown v. Board of Education, and the call for school desegregation.  It was also the time of Rosa Parks and others, who found their voice, took a stand, and changed the world. 

This was the background of my young and innocent years – an ever-changing national political and social landscape, while in the Rio Grande Valley, social and political forces fought to keep the approaching waves of change from reaching the hearts and minds of the growing Mexican-American population.  And, as a result, for many of my kind and caste (Americans of Mexican descent) life was not easy during those years of approaching change and growth. 

Like many now my age, who lived through the ‘50s and ‘60s in the Valley, we have had a lifetime to absorb the moments of our lives and to savor the highs and the lows of life in the America of our youth, and in the America that we and our generation helped to shape and change.  We glimpsed America at its worst, and tasted the bitter fruit of bigotry and segregation as youngsters growing up along the Rio Grande.  And growing up brown and poor amongst the green, lush and rich fields of the Valley along the Rio Grande, we felt the isolation and loneliness of being different, as we experienced the great divide of class, of color and of wealth.  Those were the days that are forever burned into our minds and into our souls.  And I was just one solitary young boy, watching, listening and waiting for the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down, and for the social and political American revolution to flood the fields, pastures and barrios of the Rio Grande Valley with the hopes and dreams promised to all Americans.

And it was the 1960’s when I was in my mid-teens, that I finally saw changes come to America and to the Valley where I lived.  It was a turbulent period for those of us coming of age and in search of identity, purpose and acceptance.  This was my time, my America, my dilemma.  I was 18 years old, living in Edinburg, and the world around me was exploding with changes that confused and astounded me.  There was discontent in the air across our country and in my mind, and the unease and disquiet of the times consumed my every thought, while I masked my apprehension and anxieties inside my rapidly evolving and questioning mind. 

It was the era of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and the Rolling Stones.  It was the epoch of my awakening as a young man in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, torn between being the Mexican-American son I was expected to be, or just being me, a brown American in a white-ruled culture.  It was a time of long solitary walks and inter-exploration and scrutiny.  It was a time of self-realization, and at times painful insight into my very being.  And I was only 18 and already living a double life.  I was an American, but I was also of Mexican heritage.  Two different worlds – both living in one fragile and growing mind and body.

How many other young brown boys and girls my age agonized like I did?  And at that time and place, I thought it was only me.  In later years I found out that I was not alone.  It was the natural course of growing up, and of becoming the man I eventually became.  It was the changing of the times and the beginning of a life filled with new sights, new sounds, new people and new experiences.  It was my coming of age, and I broke free from my comfortable nest, where I had been nurtured and loved, and found my wings and flew.  Unfortunately, however, I found that like a caged bird, I had nowhere to fly.

Eventually, however, time, circumstance and my inexperience and innocence beckoned me out of the Valley and into a world I had only read about and thought about.  I had always been part of a family unit.  I had always been taken care of, supported and loved.  To walk away from the security of acceptance and approval, and into the maelstrom of the real world, can be devastating for anyone, but especially for an 18 year-old boy shackled by the weight of an unaccepted culture, a disparaged heritage and a maligned sense of self.  That was me back in the late 1960s, a short, skinny, big-eared, brown-skinned Mexican-American young boy, on the verge of my independence, and the abandonment of my days of innocence and my childish ways. 

Little did know of what was to come.  And on a hot summer day in 1968, as I looked out the window of the Greyhound Bus as it rolled up US Highway 281 towards San Antonio, little did I know how much my life and my world would change.  All I could see was my Mom and Dad waving to me, and tears flowing down their cheeks.  I was leaving, not on a jet plane, but on a bus.  Destination – the world, and my quixotic confrontation with tilting wind mills and my incomprehensibility of war and the acceptance of mortality -- all before I became a man.

This was my beginning -- a Greyhound Bus to San Antonio to join the Army.  But, to me, it was a lot more.  I was not just leaving behind my childhood and my childish dreams, I was also headed to adulthood, or so I thought.  Unfortunately, I found that adulthood doesn’t just happen automatically when you board a bus to become “all that you can be,” as the Army slogan promised me.  I found that growing up was hard to do, especially when you’re alone and realize that you no longer have the safety net that was always there before.


Submitted: May 25, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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