Living in Van Nuys in the 1990s was difficult because we endured isolation, discrimination, and frustration, but we were a family and had each other and a college community that supported our goals. One call from Los Angeles Valley College’s daycare center changed our lives forever.
Van Nuys California is the place of mothers and their children. Driving by this city you will see lots of mothers pushing their strollers around. It is a busy city and a dirty city. Restaurants, Laundromats and discount stores line the streets. When I was 17 I use to cruise Van Nuys Boulevard with my friends. We listened to music and looked for boys and had lots of fun doing it. It was a teenager ritual that started back in the 1950s.
I never would have believed then, that I would end up living in Van Nuys for seven years on the 2nd floor of a tree fort apartment. We lived in a Latino community and we felt isolated. Yet, when our son JF started to go to school we made friends and soon blended into the community.
I loved going to the Russian produce store near our apartment where we could buy fresh herbs and vegetables. They had giant buckets of fermented coleslaw, tomatoes and pickles for sale. Each Christmas the owner gave my son a Russian bunt fruit cake covered in dry fruit and as hard as a rock. Next to them was the Italian deli where we purchased feta cheese and olive oil. We lived off of 60 dollars a week for food which was doable in the mid-1990s. Occasionally when my son and I saved our pennies we would go to Jack In The Box for some hamburgers and French fries. The toy from the kid’s meal brought so much joy to my child that life was very sweet.
Out tree fort apartment only faced another apartment on one side, otherwise we had windows all around us. We could look out and over the world below which was mostly asphalt, noisy children and gangsters often rooming around. My son told me that there was a tree he could see from his bedroom window. (We all sleep together in one bedroom) He enjoyed watching the seasons change while watching the tree over a years’ time. On hot summer days we went on walks through nearby residential neighborhoods. We went looking for sprinklers watering lawns and ran and danced through them. Magical as it was for my son and I to share, I dreamed of having a home of our own someday. There were many pockets of people with different identities and communities that lived around us that at times seemed foreign and odd to us.
John, my husband, had a dead-end job working for a furniture restoration business down in Los Angeles. We only had a large old green monster van to get around with. Most of the times my son and I took the bus or I pushed him around in a shopping cart.
Back then in my desperation for finding a job or going back to school, I put my son’s name on a long waiting list for daycare at Los Angeles Valley College’s day care center. It was only a few miles from where we lived. Out of the blue they called me and it changed our lives forever. Within a day’s time I had my son signed up for daycare. I also was signed up for 12 units. I had all the financial aid I needed to attend school. Within a year I talked my husband into going back to school. He majored in science and then earned a degree in Respiratory Therapy It was a dream come true for us, and due to the government fanatical aid programs offered to us, John went on to find excellent work, and I went on to continue my education at Cal State University Northridge.