OUT OF THE FIELDS
My Journey From Farmworker Boy To Pediatrician
Book Excerpt from the Inspiring Story of Ramon Resa, MD:
Excerpt #7 of 17
RAMON’S “STRAIGHT-A” REPORT CARD MEANS NOTHING TO HIS GRANDMOTHER …
One day, Mrs. Tobin hands out the report cards and I receive straight “A’s.” I’m shocked. I’ve never gotten all “A’s” before. I stare at my report card for a long time and pride swells up in me.
I don’t feel the humid air this afternoon, and the day feels as warm as summer under the grapevines. I walk toward our house slowly, enjoying the glow of the day, taking my time as I walk the long way across the playing field and the basketball courts. I normally stop to play after school, but today I’m eager to show off my report card.
My uncle-brother Joe and some of his buddies are warming up on the basketball court. “Aren’t you going to shoot baskets?” he calls to me.
“Oh, come on, what’re you gonna do, go read?” asks Chongie. He’s actually a cousin but I always think of him as a school friend.
All my buddies have taken to calling me “Bullwinkle” or “Professor,” after the cartoons. They think reading’s a real waste of time and can’t understand why it fascinates me.
My family thinks I’m odd because I always have my nose in a book. My older brother Mily is the only other one of us who enjoys reading. He and I fight every day over the Visalia Times-Delta. When times are good and we have a little extra money, Ama will order a subscription, and we read it from cover to cover. Sometimes it’s the only reading material in the house aside from the library books I check out. Ama likes to read the paper too, and I’m surprised to realize that she can read English because she speaks it brokenly and avoids situations where she has to talk.
I would never reveal that reading’s my escape. I may never be able to do many of the things I read about, but I can fantasize as much as my imagination will let me and dream about what I can do in the future.
I continue along the dirt path toward the house, then up the driveway. I know Ama’s home because her car’s in the driveway. I’m glad I caught her at home, and I take my time getting to the front door. I’m feeling lucky that I won’t have to wait long to see her reaction.
I’m anticipating what she’ll say. She’ll be so proud of me. She’ll probably get on the phone right away and call everybody, even my mother. She’ll interrupt whoever’s on our party line. “I have important calls to make!” she’ll yell. She may even call our relatives in Riverside. After all, my getting straight “A’s” is a momentous achievement.
When I walk into the house, I see her sitting at our yellow dining table smoking a cigarette and reading the newspaper. The TV in our small living room is tuned to a Mexican telenovela. We have two TVs, one stacked on top of the other. The older one no longer works, but we use it as a stand for the newer one. The TV is surrounded by statuettes and pictures of saints – on top of the old TV, on top of the new one, and hanging on the wall. Ama believes in the saints and has their images scattered all over the house.
When I approach her, she looks surprised. I usually keep my distance so she won’t make me run errands when I’d rather read. I hand her my report card and hold my breath waiting for her reaction. She’s going to say, “Mijo, I’m so proud of you!” Then she’ll give me a big hug.
But she does nothing. She just stares down at the card.
I say, “Ama, I made all ‘A’s.’”
She gives me a blank look. “Are you being good and not getting in trouble?” I realize that she doesn’t know what “all ‘A’s” means.
“No, I’m not getting into trouble. All ‘A’s’ means I’m smart. Nobody else got all ‘A’s.’”
After a few moments, she hands me back the card without another comment or glance. “Go get me some more cigarettes from the store. This is my last one.”
“Ama, you need to sign it so Mrs. Tobin knows you’ve seen it.” My voice is flat.
“I’ll do it later,” she tells me. “I need cigarettes now before the store closes.”