Past (1/6 Excerpt from Beyond the Cover)

As promised in the following post: Beyond the Cover Introduction, here’s the first excerpt from Beyond the Cover.

When my past was my present, I thought life was pretty hard.  But the only thing I thought was hard was getting my education.  When the truth is, learning only continues to get harder when one grows older and the only thing I have left is perseverance.

I struggled getting down the multiplication table.  I remember my dad standing next to me as I sat at the kitchen table holding up a flashcard.  The deafening silence of an empty thought trying to figure out what exactly was 8×4 and having dad tower over me was agony. Every wrong answer was a slap on the head.  I could feel his frustration and anger, swearing in Tagalog and yelling, “Why can’t you get this?  Are you stupid?”  Is it because of the stereotype, where all Asians are smart?  Well, I guess I proved that one wrong.  I’m half Chinese and I should be good at math, but God must have better plans for me.  So, sorry Dad, if I completely failed at math.  But, thanks to Hooked on Phonics I was able to read each word perfectly correct, zipping through paragraphs like it was nothing, but didn’t quite comprehend the message.

Even having multiple tutors and attending summer school up until middle school didn’t really help me.  Well, there was one.  Kelly.  She was the only one who not only helped me with school in the present, but helped me in the long run.  She was the only one who really made an impact on my life.  She was always there to help me progress and learn from my mistakes.  She was like my very own Mr. Feeney. I mean, she was with me for 6 years!  I slowly drifted away from her throughout junior year and completely stopped my senior year of high school. It was a mutual agreement – Kelly, Mom, Dad, and . . . well, I guess, me. We decided that I needed to learn by myself and get ready for college.

On the upside, nothing school related or anything, but I received a lot of love which led me to become a loving person.  I like to think of myself as an easily likeable person.  Sure, I wasn’t one of the most popular girls in the class and I wasn’t exactly a brainiac.   I was simple, plain, and ordinary.  A shy girl with braces and glasses, who didn’t have many friends or was a part of some social clique.  But I had a few friends I was close to.  And I had my greatest friend of all, my grandfather, whom we called Angkong.

I was a homebody as a child into my adolescent years.  Angkong helped raise me.  He was my biggest hero.  Someone who was not like me at all: outgoing, hilarious, loving, caring . . . I could go on and on, but he was the best human in the world. I always wanted to grow old and become like him, but I don’t know if I could even strike up the nerve to approach another family of strangers at a different table in a restaurant, start up a conversation, and have the entire table laughing within seconds. And no, it wasn’t one of those fake laughs where the person is thinking, “who is this old man and why is he talking to us” type thing.  It was genuine laughter.  You can see it in their eyes, with their heads tilt slightly backwards, and their mouths wide open showing their teeth laughter.

My past was happy and loving, mostly because I have a lot of love in my family.  But my worries in elementary school were nothing compared to seven year old Nina from Ecuador.

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