Sometimes it’s triggered by a smell…the smell of someone’s perfume or cologne as they walk by.  You close your eyes and you get that comforting feeling…you go back to “that place”…that place where everything was perfect.  It’s amazing that something like that exists…a memory, I mean.  Without even realizing it, everything around us helps to create these special moments throughout life that give us peace.  The Kwakiutl people have a name for this…they call it He`Lade.  For them, a He`Lade was created when they were in “a place having everything right.”  The Kwakiutl named each He`Lade according to their natural surroundings, or the event itself.  Kwakiutl or not, everyone has their own He`Lade…mine is Sunday Night at the Pico Rivera Drive-Inn.

Coming from less than wealthy roots, my family and I had to make the most of whatever we had.  Mom, Dad, my brother and sister and I have so many memories that would not exist if we had been “well-off”.  Being poor was a struggle, but it was our way of life.  It helped to add flair to grim situations, and it pulled us closer together.  Being poor humbled me.  It helped me to understand that things don’t just get handed to you.  Most people would have a hard time discussing all the things they couldn’t have due to a meager financial situation, but for me, my past created my He`Lade.

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Sitting in our driveway was our rusty old van.  It was big, dirty and less than nice, but it carried us where we needed to go.  It took us grocery shopping, to school, but most importantly, it took us to the Pico Rivera Drive-Inn on Sunday nights.  We didn’t get to do a whole lot in the way of entertainment, but one thing we could afford was the drive-inn on Sunday nights.  It cost $5.00 a car load, and for us, that was affordable entertainment.  Mom would fix up some snacks, load up a few blankets and off we’d go to watch a movie.  When we got there, Dad would back into a space (so that we could open the van’s back doors), attach the drive-inn speaker to the front driver’s side window, and us kids would pick out our blankets and settle in for a movie.  We’d snack on popcorn, chips, or whatever my mom packed up for us; we’d laugh at funny parts, then get really serious for serious parts, and when the movie was over, we’d all unload from the van and stretch.  Mom would walk us to the restroom, and then we’d load back up and go home.  Our drive home was always filled with “My favorite part was…”, or “It was so funny when….”

Sometimes the movies were good, and sometimes they were not so good.  Looking back now, whether or not the movie was any good really didn’t matter.  To this day, I can’t even really remember most of the movies we watched.  What I do remember is the way it felt to be snuggled between my parents, surrounded by everything that mattered.  As a kid I don’t think I appreciated it nearly as much as I do now.  Sure, I was happy that my parents spent wisely in order to have five dollars available for our standing Sunday night date.  As we loaded up, I remember feeling super excited about what was going to be showing, but as an adult, I realize that the movie wasn’t what our outing was all about.  It was about so much more.  This is the one memory that I can look back on and feel “that feeling.”  I truly believe that our Sunday nights at the drive-inn helped to pull us together.  It was my parent’s way of showing us that being poor wasn’t all that bad.  Its memories like these that keep us close.  For me, family is a big deal.  My parents instilled an important appreciation for the little things in life, and for that, Sunday night at the Pico Rivera Drive-Inn is my He`Lade.