My father named me “Mildred” after my mother, but my
friends and family call me “Tita.”
The town I live in is San José, California. This is where I
was born and raised.
I lived in Los Angeles County twice before the age of eighteen
because I needed a place to go when I made the decision to
run away from my problems. I lived in Wilmington for almost a
year and lived in Hawthorn for a few months. I found work in
Wilmington and Gardena, where I rented my own little place
near my aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
I have three brothers. The two older ones are Eddie (Ed)
and Arthur (Art) and the younger one is Victor (Vic.) We were
all born two years apart, except for Art and me. We are a year and-
a-half apart in age.
I was the curly haired brat whom my brother Art wrote
about in his book, East Side Dreams. I was spoiled by my father
until he and my mother divorced when I was thirteen years old.
When my parents decided to end their marriage, it did not
bother me as it does many other children. Though I loved my
father very much, I was happy to see him leave, only because of
all the misery he brought to my mother in those final years of
their marriage. I could not take it anymore. Sometimes I lay in
bed with my hands over my ears to block out Dad’s mean and
angry voice. He seemed to pick on my mother constantly for any
little thing he could imagine. She never said a word; she just
took it.
Eddie and Art were always trying to stay out of Dad’s way
because they did not want to get in trouble. Dad always seemed
to be in a bad mood when he arrived home from work. On weekends,
Eddie and Art always had to work in the yard and wash his car.
Despite the bad times, there were many fun times, too.
Once in a while, Dad would surprise us. Early in the morning,
we would hear him yell in a happy voice, “Get up! ¡Andale,
andale! Hurry! Get up!” It was these expressions that told us he
was in a good mood and was going to take us some place fun,
maybe to Santa Cruz, to the San Francisco Zoo, or to Alum Rock
After my parents divorced, Dad left San José to live in
Mexico City. It seemed as if life was going to be much easier for
our family. However, approximately two years after he left, the
GREAT problems in our family began in the town I live in.

By: Tita Rodriguez Parra


I worked at Ocala Middle School in San José, California, as a paraprofessional. On November 3, 1993, I was having my lunch in the school faculty room with Elizabeth Rios (Liza), my bestfriend. The school staff had the television on because of the breaking news that was being broadcast that day.I heard the horrible news that a twelve-year-old girl named Polly Klaas was found murdered in a rural area. She was found miles away from her home in Petaluma, California, and had been strangled to death.
I had been following Polly’s story, wishing and hoping she would be found alive. The final news was a great disappointment to ever yone in the school faculty room. While the news reporters were broadcasting on the television, you could hear the teachers and staff members of the school whispering comments of sadness and disgust. I also felt the same but felt great anger when they televised the killer’s face. I hated that sick man for what he did to this precious, little girl.
After lunch was over, I told Liza (Elizabeth, the school librarian) to go ahead and walk the halls without me. I felt sick to my stomach! After she left, I went into the restroom and began having an intense anxiety attack. I cried profoundly, not thinking for a second if anyone would hear me. I just could not stop crying.
Miss. Lomas, the principal, was in her office, the room next to the bathroom wall where I sat. As a result of hearing my anguished cries, she came into the restroom, hugged me, tried to console me, and tried to calm me. After a few minutes, I felt a little better. I washed my face, and she took me into a counseling room.Miss. Lomas checked to see if Mrs. Thompson, the school counselor, was available to see me for a few minutes. I had known Mrs. Thompson for a few years and had always felt very comfortable with her. She sat with me, and I briefly told her about the trauma I was recalling.I told Mrs. Thompson that watching the horrific news about Polly Klaas not only disturbed me but also brought something forth that had been buried within my soul for a long time.Not just years, but decades. It was my own experience of being kidnapped when I was fifteen years old. I stated to Mrs.Thompson, "But I survived."When I dramatically expressed those three words, I realized I REALLY SURVIVED!
My experience had finally been put to rest-all the horror of what happened to me. I realized that after all these years I am finally focused on the positive out come of this experience-the fact that I SURVIVED.
When I finished speaking with Mrs. Thomson, I felt a lot better. I felt changed. I felt as if I wanted to tell everyone that I was a survivor. It was as if I had just found gold in my pocket that had been there all the time. What happened to me was something I never talked about previously. Very few people knew what happened. Those who did were not aware of the details. Now I felt I was ready to talk about everything that occurred.
 One day in the winter of 2006, I awoke at home alone. I took my tape recorder; and I began speaking into it, telling my story. When I was done, I knew I first wanted to share this experience with my brothers because they were never aware of what took place on the night of November 22, 1966. Once my brothers heard the tape recording, they accepted what occurred. They called and said they were very saddened to hear this crime had been committed against me.Art Rodriguez, my older brother and the author of books that have inspired teenagers, encouraged me to write my story and to share it, reminding me that I could help others. He also knew I could write other interesting stories to share along with this one experience. I told Art, "Thanks, but no thanks. I’m really not ready to write a book."Sharing that story to others was out of the question, but a year later, this changed.

It was a Monday morning in January 2008. I was driving on the 680 Freeway to visit my daughter Valorie and her new baby Lucas, in Fremont, California, a city that is a few miles from San José. I have always had a large collection of many different types of music in various languages. Today, however, I felt like listening to my oldies.I turned the music up loudly in my car, as always. As I drove, I sang, "The town I live in is lonely. It’s so lonely till I have to cry."The old songs, one after another, brought back memories of my teenage and young adult years. Some of the songs made me laugh and think, Wow! We really had some good times, as well as some sad and bad times. These reflections seemed as if they were not that long ago. Then I glanced in my rear-view mirror and took a long, hard look at myself. Reality set in. It was a long, long time ago all right!
There was no traffic at this particular time of the morning. I kept looking to my right at the hills along the way. They looked really pretty-so close and so green. I thought to myself, Wow, how beautiful they look. I feel so happy. Life is good right now! My life has had as many ups and downs as a roller coaster. However, in spite of it all, I believe I am ready to write about the good, the bad, and the funny. These experiences and memories, I hope, will be an inspiration to young readers everywhere, as well as to adults who can then reflect on their own life’s journey.

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