Up to the time I was six, when my day-to-day existence would change drastically, I had a bubbly personality and a zest for life. We had no home of our own since we were constantly being transferred from base to base. But I was always eager to laugh and hungry to learn, and I adored the early days when we lived with my grandmother Marguerite, whom we called Marky, and my grandfather Raymundo Parrilla, of Philippine descent, whom we called Daddy Ray. Marky was a music enthusiast, cleaning house to the sounds of Mahalia Jackson, gospel, and Elvis's "Blue Suede Shoes," which she played over and over again. Every day, each family on the block had a pot of vegetables, beans, or black-eyed peas and collard greens simmering on the stove. Food aromas wafted down the street all the time, which gave a homey, warm feeling to the neighborhood.
I was thrilled when Daddy Ray gave me a dime one Saturday so I could go to the movies with a few of my friends and cousins. My aunt Mennon, my mother's sister, had four children, and I recall my excitement when we headed off to the neighborhood movie theater to see Godzilla, a film clearly chosen by the boys.
The truth is that the film could have been about anything under the sun. I wouldn't have cared. It was my first movie, and I was ecstatic over the darkened theater and my very own nickel bag of popcorn that I didn't have to share. There were no segregation restrictions for the kiddie matinee, so we were free to frolic, scream, and munch on candy and popcorn. It felt like an indoor playground where kids could bounce on the seats, yell, giggle, laugh, and play with abandon, reacting to what was on the movie screen.