Countdown to the Big Six-Oh
As I write this in the late morning of Sunday, February 5, 2023, there are less than 28 days (four weeks!) until I leave my 50s – which, sadly, have not been as happy or fulfilling as I’d hoped – and turn 60. I am hoping that when March 5 (which will also fall on a Sunday) rolls around, it will be at least somewhat pleasant, regardless of whether I’m still here in Lithia or in Brandon.
Obviously, my attitude about this landmark birthday is one of total ambivalence, just like it was in 2013 when my 50th was “drawing nigh.” 10 years ago, of course, my mother was still alive, though she had lost much of her mobility, was confined to the downstairs bedroom – the smallest room in our townhouse – and was slowly but surely suffering from cognitive issues caused by dementia. She wasn’t as far “gone” as she would be in early 2015, but by this time in 2013, she no longer read and was showing more signs of deterioration, including stressful instances of “Sundown Syndrome.”
The Big Five-Oh: It Wasn’t That Long Ago, and Yet….
Honestly, I can’t remember what, exactly, we did for my 50th birthday in ’13. I do remember getting a few calls from friends and family in Colombia, including one in which I was congratulated because Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez had died that morning. And because my mother knew my half-sister would react badly if she made a big fuss about me making it to the “half-century” mark, she kept things low-key and congratulated me before Vicky even showed up at house.
My First Landmark Decade: Alex Turns 10!
Obviously, my previous “decade landmark” birthdays had all occurred when Mom was in good health, and my 10th – which I was looking forward to around this time in 1973 – was the first ever.
According to the various calendars and reference sites I’ve consulted, February 5, 1973 fell on a Monday, so more than likely I was attending school at Tropical Elementary School, near the unincorporated neighborhood of Village Green.
We were still living at 1001 SW 102nd Avenue, of course, and my household consisted of:
- Beatriz Diaz-Granados, aka Mom, aka Mami, who was 44 then
- Victoria Pineros, my older half-sister, aka Vicky, who was 22 at the time but was also looking forward to her 23rd birthday on March 10
Aside from my friends on the block that runs north-south alongside SW 102nd Avenue from SW 8th Terrace to SW 12th Street, I had a posse of close friends from Tropical that included the late James Miller and Raul Fonseca, as well as the still very much alive David Dines and Joaquin “Kiki” Trias, Jr.
And even though I was still – unconsciously – sad over losing Cheryl T after being transferred to Tropical from Coral Park Elementary, the school in whose attendance boundaries we lived, I was almost three months into a relationship with my second girlfriend, “K.” We would “go steady” for almost four years from that point on, but at the time, we thought we would be together forever.
I don’t recall, even now, what I was expecting my 10th birthday to be like. We weren’t dirt poor then, but we weren’t in the same socio-economic class in Miami that we had been in Bogota just a year before, so I know I wasn’t expecting something like a trip to Walt Disney World, which was still relatively new in 1973.
TVs, School, Scouts – What More Could I Possibly Want?
I do remember that I wanted my own TV set, even if it was a black and white set. Mom had promised me one; I’d had a small B&W set,(a Zenith, if I remember right) in my bedroom in Bogota till our house was burglarized in 1970 and thieves absconded with it, along with my bedspread. I don’t remember if Mom replaced that set; she probably did, although I have no memory of it thanks to the cerebral hemorrhage that was the catalyst for our return to the States in the spring of 1972.
As I said earlier, 50 years ago today was a Monday, so around this time on February 5, 1973 I was probably on my way to eat lunch in the cafeteria at Tropical Elementary School. Obviously, a half-century on, I can’t remember my routine from that time with any exactitude, but I do remember that with the exception of physical education (Mr. Wolfson was our male PE teacher; there was a female teacher as well but I’ve forgotten her name), art (Mr. Borok), music (Mr. Green), all of my classwork was done under the tutelage of Mrs. Margo Chambers.
By this time in 1973, I was also a Cub Scout in Pack 396, which was attached to Troop 396 of the Boy Scouts of America (South Florida Council). I don’t remember what my rank was then; certainly a Bobcat, but not quite yet a Wolf Scout.
The Americanization of Alex
My English language skills in February of 1973 were getting better. I wasn’t yet as fluent as I would be in 1974, but I was already thinking more in English than in Spanish. I also tried to not speak with the heavy Hispanic accent that both Mom and Vicky had. I mimicked what I heard in school and on TV, plus I also attended – once a week, I think – speech therapy in another classroom at Tropical. And, of course, I read books and watched TV only in English; it helped a lot that I did not care for the fare on WLTV (Canál 23), South Florida’s main Spanish language station) and preferred the programming on the Big Three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), PBS, and indie station WCIX-TV (Channel Six).
In short, less than a year after our unexpected return to Miami from Bogota, Colombia, I was making progress with assimilating into the culture of the country where I was born, I had a girlfriend and a lot of friends to hang out with. Mom was still in her 40s and in good health, and even though I was beginning to see some troubling personality traits in my half-sister, such as unpredictable mood swings and an obsession with losing weight and fad diets, we seemed to get along well then.
And, unlike now, I was truly excited about my birthday.
2 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit: Monday, February 5, 1973 – The Big One-Oh is Only Four Weeks Away (50 Years On)”
For me, the hardest milestone was 30. And, it wasn’t even 30 itself, but the week leading up to it. When I awoke on my 30th birthday, I said to myself well, I’m one day older than I was yesterday. 40, 50 and, now 60 haven’t bugged me. I just turned 60 this past November. It’s all good. and, an early happy 60th to you, Alex!
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Thanks! I’ll still be 59 for 26-some days, though!
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