By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico
April showers bring May flowers. I remember that saying well from my childhood. And with those April showers came plenty of croaking frogs to keep us awake at night.
This cloudy time of year reminds me of my unforgettable childhood days growing up in the barrio of north Portales, more specifically on North Avenue B, and even more specifically, on the 1100 block of North Avenue B. We were a tight-knit bunch of kids.
Maranos might be a more fitting term for us. Or as my niece, Kika, would say for us girls, cochinas maranas, because we were right out there in knee-high water and mud, catching tadpoles and frogs with the guys.
We lived on the corner house on the 1100th block of North Avenue B. When the heavy showers of April came, the street to our house’s right, West Juniper, would literally turn into a small river. It was a dirt street at the time, a dirt street minus any drainage system.
It didn’t take much for the water level to build up, and with the water, came the frogs. I remember lying awake at night, hearing the frogs’ symphony right outside of my window.
When the frogs came, so did the neighborhood kids. We’d roll up our pants and walk in the knee-high river, seeing how many crawling green critters we could catch. One year we placed an old ice chest on our front porch, which my dad was not happy about, and filled it with frogs.
When it rained that much, it was out of the question to walk to the North Main Sugar Shack, which was all the way at the other end of West Juniper. That was the small grocery store, or candy store, as we called it. Back then, it seemed so far. When I passed by the old store recently — it’s now a church — the building was only three blocks from our old home. I remember many times looking out my bedroom window and eagerly waiting for Uncle Benny as he walked back from the North Main Sugar Shack with a bag of goodies for us girls.
My Grandma Emma lived on South Avenue B. To get to her house, we didn’t even have to change streets. We just kept going straight, crossing the tracks and West First Street, and then we were on South Avenue B. Grandma Emma lived at the end of South Avenue B, the last block before West 18th Street, and West 18th Street was known to get pretty flooded, too. At Grandma Emma’s house, my sister Becky and I would roll up our pants to our knees and head to the impromptu river with Uncle Paul. One year, we even went intertubing.
I loved lying awake at night with the scent of fresh rain in the air, and hearing the symphony of the frogs. But once it started thundering, I would jump out of bed and race to Mom and Dad’s room. I remember one time when all of us girls were in bed with Mom and Dad.
One fateful night, however, at the sound of the first sharp peal of thunder, I jumped up, ready to race for Mom, when Becky held me back and suggested we get under the covers until the thunder ended.
And so I stayed under the covers with Becky. It felt a little safer there, and from that night on, I’m sure to Mom and Dad’s relief, I was no longer afraid of thunder.
I still had a fear of flash floods for sometime after that though. I didn’t know what a flash flood was the first time I heard a weather warning on TV. I pictured a huge tidal wave coming out of nowhere and washing us out. Mom and Dad were not home at the time and so I started to cry and panic. We called Grandma Emma’s house and because I was near hysterical, Uncle Hymie walked all the way from South Avenue B to North Avenue B to be with us girls until Mom and Dad got home. I felt so much safer with him there.
Needless to say, that big tidal wave never came.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. She can be contacted at: