|All Points West: Time for gathering around the table|
|July 15, 2016 Frank Marquez|
It was great to see everyone who came back for Oregon Trail Days. Like the pioneering days, it was a time for family to check in and catch up on each otherís lives, and to ensure our security and well-being. After months in the making, my brothers and I reunited after six years.
For some historical context, part of a third generation of Nebraskans, five of us were born in Scottsbluff at the old St. Mary Hospital to my dad, Frank Jr., who was employed as a farmhand in Lyman, and my mother Lupe (Martinez) Gordon, who was a homemaker. My youngest brother was delivered at Regional West. We attended Gering schools, making our stamp on sports. As boys do, we were also fairly popular for getting into trouble: hopping the fence at the Gering swimming pool and throwing dirt clods at trucks to name a few memorable adventures.
Since growing up many moons ago, we have all gone our separate ways. Following the advice of my sixth-grade teacher at Geil Elementary Mr. Tom Crokie, I left Gering at 15 anxious to bust out of a small town and see the world. I was gone for about 34 years wearing out my duffle bag before finally returning. We staked out homes around the world. My eldest brother Tom, a retail store manager, lives in Las Vegas. The second in command, Randall works as a sales manager for an oil company in Colorado. Panhandle Health Group in Scottsbluff employs my brother Fred, who is more famous for belting out country and rock-and-roll favorites at local events throughout west Nebraska. Jason teaches English at a college in South Korea. The youngest, Jesse, works in the travel industry where he lives in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Most people, once they find out there were no girls in our family, ask how our poor mother survived. Or, they state the obvious: ĎWow, you had a basketball team plus one.í We turned many a head when my mother shopped for groceries at Jack and Jill on 10th Street or Alexanderís in Scottsbluff. She filled three or four carts, easily. In our house, a gallon of milk lasted two hours or two seconds, given the hand that tilted the jug. Or, they say, we have starkly different personalities and interests.
Itís hard to believe weíre related.
We had not seen each other since Christmas in 2010, when some of our own children met for the first time. Gatherings where all six of us can be together have been few and far between. Prior to the winter holiday, staying true to the Big Red, we planned a year in advance to attend the Nebraska versus USC game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Sept. 16, 2006, which was also my youngest brotherís birthday. I was living in Las Vegas at the time, along with Tom. So, Sin City was our rendezvous. Caravanning to L.A. was half the fun. Being together was the other half, especially for celebrating Jesseís birthday at Hooterís. Though, following the 28-10 loss to the Trojans, the party was little solace. Iím glad we had each other.
Every time we get together, we reminisce about childhood, lessons, and the aches and rewards of growing older. We fought like mortal enemies, but like any family, pick on one of us, Lord pity the fool who did. I donít envy anyone who faced all six of us. At our latest gathering, we expressed such gratitude at seeing each other. It was like time had stood still. We picked up right where we left off, but it wasnít always this way.
We had our differences. More than our differences, we dealt with being a Hispanic family living in rural and small town west Nebraska in the late Ď60s and early Ď70s. Indeed, there were racial epithets, underlying tensions, prejudices, stereotypes Ė the most common referring to our large family. We joked about my parents having so many kids, the double whammy of being Catholic and Mexican. Immigrants like my great-grandparents settled in neighborhoods we called barrios likely for the following reasons: poverty, safety in numbers, and choices for buying property were limited to minorities. One of my white girlfriends was told by her grandma that I couldnít escort her to prom because of my skin color. I was even called the N-word while standing in the fourth-grade lunch line at Lincoln Elementary. Fortunately, I did not know its meaning at the time.
Today, thereís a larger population of Hispanics in the Twin Cities, but I donít know if hearts and minds have changed, or how much. What I have learned in my world travels, and in multicultural and diversity classes in education, is that people feel most comfortable when they can see themselves in the other people they meet and know, and when those Lemming-style groups espouse the same beliefs through words and actions.
The media knows that, and feeds on it. If pundits Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow report something you like, you are likely to follow them, and only them. Human beings rarely embrace change with open arms. A good friend said that if you donít have someone in your life to challenge your thinking, you stop learning, and worse, you stop growing. Iím told there were some people who thought electricity was evil, and why if candles and kerosene lamps worked, we needed to erect utility poles and wires. Hence the failure of winning hearts and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan Ė wholesale shifts of thought donít come quickly. I doubt that if there are small tensions because of race in Gering and Scottsbluff, they would lead to violence like they have in several cities across the United States. Violence begets violence. In Nebraska, we benefit from the peaceful nature of farmers. We get it: growing versus destroying.
Like my brothers when we sit at the kitchen table, we donít agree on everything, but we have come to respect each other, enough to overcome some powerful differences. At some point in our adult lives, we made a conscious choice to do so.
Now, more than ever, at this critical time for our nation, itís time for all Americans to make the same conscious choice.