Tempus Fugit…Again, or: My ‘Colombian Childhood’ is a Half-Century in the Past

See that kid in the center of the frozen image before you start this Russian (!) travel film about Bogota? He looks a lot like I did as a kid in 1970.

Hey, there, Dear Reader. Welcome to another nostalgia-filled post in my occasional series, Tempus Fugit, in which I look back at certain periods of my so-called life, usually to remark that half-a-century has elapsed between Then and Present Day.

Last night, while I was attempting to watch the first disc of Zack Snyder’s Justice League – the one from the 4K UHD box set known as Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trilogy – and vainly trying to stave off sleep, a thought flickered in the inner halls of my mind:

  • 10 years ago, I was still living in Miami, learning – the hard way, as it turns out – how to run a household while taking care of an elderly and seriously ill parent
  • 20 years ago, I was still shell-shocked by the September 11 attacks against the U.S. by Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group, Al Qaeda
  • 30 years ago, I was awestruck by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War
  • 40 years ago, I was trying hard to cope with the academic and social challenges of being a high school student
  • 50 years ago, I was a second (or maybe third) grade student in a private Catholic school (Colegio El Nogal) in Bogota, Colombia
Look! A Colombian history YouTube video. Apparently, there were a lot of protests going in Bogota then.

In September of 1971 – half a century ago – I lived in an apartment (rented, not owned) with my mom, who was about to turn 43, and my 21-year-old half-sister Vicky. I was eight, and on September 15, 1971 – a Thursday – I probably was in one of my classes at Colegio El Nogal, idly wondering when the school day would end so I could go back to the house and change out of my school uniform and into regular clothes.

I am not sure where this neighborhood was in relation to where I lived in Bogota, but I find it interesting.

The passage of time and many years of living in Florida, USA have obliterated many memories from my six years in Bogota. I remember only a few things, such as the fact that we lived in the same apartment building as my maternal grandaunt Maruja Restrepo de Lince, and that we had two live-in maids (Lili and Olimpia), who had their own rooms on the far side of our “flat.”

At the time – and for many years thereafter, even after we had been living in Miami for a while – I slept with my night table lamp turned on. We had been victims of a robbery not long before – thieves broke into our place on a Sunday afternoon when my mom was working at La Rueda, the restaurant that she co-owned with my Uncle Octavio, my half-sister was out with friends, and I was visiting my grandparents at their then-new apartment. One of the stolen items was my black-and-white Zenith TV (I still remember that!), which they had wrapped in my bed’s tartan-pattern bedspread. After that incident, I dreaded the dark because I thought the thieves would come back and kill us all in our sleep.

TV ads I might have seen as an eight-year-old kid. Colombian TV was then only broadcast in black-and-white.

I also remember that 1971 was not particularly one of my better years, even though it was marked by a rare trip to Miami for a vacation over the Christmas holidays. I was not in the best of health that year, having been confined to my house by a series of illnesses, including sarampión (measles), a mild bout of hepatitis, and – in Miami, of all places, bronchitis.

Apollo 14 launch.

I also had a room which – thanks to my mom – had an Apollo moon program motif. I had a shelf which was dominated by a set of assembled – but not painted – Revell models of the Saturn V rocket, the lunar module, and the command service module. Vicky had assembled them for me – we got along then, you see – but she didn’t get around to paint them or put stickers on the white plastic models.

My mom had also cut out a Mission Profile diagram that depicted all the stages of an Apollo lunar mission from launch to splashdown. It was in black-and-white (or, if you prefer, grey tone) poster from an issue of the El Tiempo newspaper, and it also had the photos and names of the astronauts who had flown to the Moon and back so far. I don’t recall what year Mom made that poster for me, so I don’t know if it included Apollo 14 (January 31, 1971 – February 9, 1971) and Apollo 15 (July 26 – August 7, 1971). However, I do remember it was one of my prized possessions, and possibly one of the few I regret that we could not bring to the States when we moved back to the States in 1972.

Apropos of that, 50 years ago I had no idea that Mom, Vicky, and I would only live in Bogota for another nine months. As far as we knew then, Miami was a place to visit, and only every so often. I remember that during the six years that we lived in Colombia (1966-1972), Mom and I vacationed in South Florida perhaps three times – Vicky only went once with us, and that was the Christmastime trip we took in December of 1971.

Sometimes I wish I could remember what I call my “Colombian Childhood” more vividly than I do. I suspect part of the “forgetting” is because I never dwelled on it that much. The passage of time, as well as the fact that after 1972 I was so focused on “becoming American” and getting on with life that I unwittingly “let go” of memories that I should have held on to. And of course, I suspect that the cerebral hemorrhage that sent me to the pediatric ward of Bogota’s Hospital Militar in March of 1972 might have affected my memory, too.

Still, every so often, I get little flashes of my Colombian Childhood. Not many, and not often, but sometimes, when the sun comes into my room in a certain way or I hear certain songs, I remember small trivial details like walking to the closet in the hallway of Colegio El Nogal where a Boston™ pencil sharpener was affixed to the door. I remember that because the teachers – mostly nuns – were so strict about how to sharpen our pencils – turn on the closet light, close the door, and not dawdle whilst doing the sharpening.

Photo by the author.

Of my belongings from my 1971 bedroom, the only one I have in my current room is a framed photograph of my dad, who died in 1965 at the age of 45 years, four months, and nine days. It’s been reframed since then – recently, as a matter of fact, but it’s the same photo that I had as a kid during my Colombian Childhood, which ended unexpectedly almost 50 years ago.

Tempus fugit indeed.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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