My last memory of my parents being together was my 7th birthday, and I would always cherish it. We
didn’t have a party for my seventh birthday, but more of a small get-together for lunch. Maddy and the
Humpreys were our only guests. We celebrated it at Gladstones, my favorite restaurant at the time. It
was in the Pacific Palisades, right on the beach. I had my favorite meal, lobster.
It was a very happy day for all of us. I was turning seven. That was a big number for my little mind. I
had spent seven years on this fascinating world, and my life was at a good start. I had loving parents, I
had friends to play with, I was having fun at school, and I had all the toys a little boy could want. A
stranger would look at this seven year old boy and think that he has a great life in front of him, that
there is nothing to worry about. Indeed, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about… But I was just a
child. I still had a few more years to enjoy life in carefree bliss before I would eventually discover how
twisted and cruel this “fascinating world” really is.
My parents seemed happy that day. I remember them laughing and having a good time. It would be
the last time I remember them being happy together. Perhaps they really weren’t, perhaps they were
just putting up a front so that I could enjoy my birthday. I couldn’t even fathom the possibility of my
Very shortly after my seventh birthday, the news came. I believe it was my mother who told me that
she and my father were getting a divorce; my mother, who only a few months before told me that such
a thing will never happen. I was absolutely shocked, outraged, and above all, overwhelmed. This was a
huge life-changing event.
My father was to stay at the round house, and my mother would move to another smaller house in
Topanga. It was arranged that me and my sister will mostly be living with our mother, and we would go
to father’s house on the weekends. My father was required to pay child support to my mother so that
she can look after us.
My life would change forever after this. The family I grew up with has split in half, and from then on I
would grow up in two different households. I remember crying. All the happy times I spent with my
mother and father as a family were gone, only to remain in memory. It was a very sad day. Just like the
move to the U.S., it would be like starting a whole new life with a new routine.
Despite the initial sadness I felt from my family splitting in half, my new life situation wasn’t all that
bad. It was still practically the same life, though I lived with my mother in one house and my father in
My mother’s new house was small and red in color, located up a steep driveway from Topanga
Canyon Boulevard. I would call it the “Red House”. It was the smallest house I’ve lived in at that point. It
only had two bedrooms, and I had to share a room with my sister Georgia. We had a bunk-bed, and I
slept on the top. I was quite uncomfortable with this change at first, being used to having my own room
and living in bigger houses. My mother’s kind and loving nature, however, made up for this, and she
turned the household into a fun environment which I enjoyed living in.
After spending the first week at mother’s house, father came to pick me and my sister up for the
weekend. Georgia had become very attached to mother after this week, and she burst into tears when
we drove off. I too, was a bit distressed at having to go from one house to the other every week, but I
would soon get used to it.
The Round House was very different without mother being there. When we entered, I felt a wave of
sadness creep over me as I was reminded of my life when mother and father were together. The house
was full of memories; happy, cheerful memories that were lost in the past. With my mother missing
from it, there was a sense of bleakness and loss to the place. Father did his best to cheer us up. I could
tell that he, too, was very saddened by the recent events.
My father soon rented one of the rooms of the round house to his good friend Dan Perelli, one of his
first friends in America. Dan used to live close to our house in Woodland Hills until he was struck with
financial troubles, which I’m assuming is why he started renting a room from my father. I would always
call him “Uncle Dan”. From this point on, Uncle Dan would stay with us as a lodger for a few years.
The time to start Second Grade arrived. My new teacher was named Mrs. Weisberg, and she was very
kind. The students in my class were mostly the same as my First Grade class, with only one or two new
students who transferred from other schools. I made a few new friends, such as Shane and Tommy.
I was very disappointed to find out that James Ellis would not be returning to Topanga Elementary for
second grade. In fact, his family would be moving out of Topanga to the Pacific Palisades, where they
would be renting a house from their friends, the Lemelson’s.
My father’s stay at the round house was very brief. He suffered some temporary financial setbacks on
top of the divorce, so he decided to move to a smaller house on Old Topanga Canyon. It was a very
abrupt move, and I would never see the round house again. One day, after he picked me and my sister
up from mother’s, he took us to the new house and that was it.
The house was a small, two-story house in a more rustic part of the Topanga mountains. The upstairs
portion had only a bedroom and bathroom, and it was rented to Uncle Dan. All around the outside of
the house were very small hills and hiking trails that led up to the mountains. Overlooking these hills
was a massive, imposing rock called “Big Rock”. When I first saw Big Rock, I told myself that one day I’ll
climb to the top of it!
I took a liking to this new environment, and every time I visited father on the weekends, I would
always be outside, exploring and adventuring. There were always new places to discover in that
secluded region. I didn’t venture too far into the wilderness, however, because of the danger of coyotes
and mountain lions.
After only a couple of months since my seventh birthday, a new and very important person would
come into my life. After father picked us up from school one day and took us to his house, I saw a
woman with dark hair and fair skin standing in the kitchen, and she introduced herself as Soumaya. She
would become my stepmother. Father told me she would be living with us from now on. At first I
thought she was just another friend who was temporarily staying with father, similar to what Uncle Dan
was doing. My father having a girlfriend so shortly after divorcing my mother didn’t even occur to me. I
couldn’t understand it. Soon enough, though, I realized that Soumaya was, in fact, his “girlfriend”, and
they were together just like how my father and mother were together. It was the first time I learned the
concept of a “girlfriend”, and it was hard to grasp. Before that, I always thought a man and a woman had
to be married before living together in such a manner, and that it would take a long time for such a
union to happen. Father finding a new girlfriend in such a short amount of time baffled me. I was
completely taken aback.
Because of my father’s acquisition of a new girlfriend, my little mind got the impression that my
father was a man that women found attractive, as he was able to find a new girlfriend in such a short
period of time from divorcing my mother. I subconsciously held him in higher regard because of this. It is
very interesting how this phenomenon works… that males who can easily find female mates garner
more respect from their fellow men, even children. How ironic is it that my father, one of those men
who could easily find a girlfriend, has a son who would struggle all his life to find a girlfriend.
I soon became accustomed to Soumaya being part of father’s household. She hails from the
Akaaboune family, a very prominent family from the country of Morocco. For the initial period of her
being a new member of the family, we got along well, and she was quite fun. But soon she would start
to discipline me in a harsh way that I wasn’t used to. I felt that because she wasn’t my real parent, she
had no right to discipline me in such a way, and so I rebelled. That’s where the first conflicts arose. There
would be many more to come in later years.
Along with the addition of Soumaya, I had two new nannies. The first nanny was a French woman
named Celine, though she was only with us for a brief period, so I don’t remember much of her. My
second nanny was a German woman named Christine. Christine would stay with us for a year, and I
became very fond of her. She would always look after me during my time at father’s house, and
whenever I went on my adventures into the hills, she always accompanied me.
Halloween this year marked my first time going Trick-or-Treating. My mother took me to my friend
Shane’s house, and we walked around his neighborhood collecting candy. Still obsessed with dinosaurs, I
dressed up as a dinosaur for that Halloween. Trick-or-Treating was a new thing for me, as it wasn’t so
popular in England. When it was all over, I was amazed that I had so much candy.
Even though James Ellis no longer went to Topanga Elementary, he was still my best friend, and I saw
him a lot. Mother would take us to his house in the Palisades almost every week, where I would play
with James, and Georgia would play with James’s sister Sage. He got me interested in a new
phenomenon that gripped many children of the era: Pokemon.
When I got my first Gameboy console, I started playing Pokemon Red Version, and I was hooked
instantly. I then started collecting Pokemon cards, and James and I always compared and traded them.
The Pokemon anime cartoon became my favorite show on television. It was a very fun, captivating
hobby, and every boy at my school had a folder of Pokemon cards. It provided something to have,
something to show off, something to talk about. The best cards were the “shinies”, and everyone
Mother was still friends with George Lucas, so we got invites to the red carpet premiere of Star Wars
Episode 1. I always was and always will be a huge Star Wars fan. I had already seen the original trilogy
many times, and I considered myself very lucky to be able to go to the premiere of the new Star Wars
It was an absolutely astonishing experience. It was just me and my mother – Georgia was too young,
so she stayed at home with a babysitter. Episode 1 is infamous for being the lesser movie of the three
new prequels, but as a kid I enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, I met some of the actors, and I shook the
hand of Jake Lloyd, the actor who played Anakin Skywalker in the movie.
My Second Grade year flew by like a breeze. I don’t remember much of it, but I did have a blast.
During recess and lunch, I played a lot with Shane and Tommy. We would play Pokemon on our
Gameboys, and sometimes we would have playdates where we played Nintendo 64 games such as
Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64, and Donkey Kong 64.
I failed in my goal of never having to change my card, which really disappointed me. I went through
most of the year without changing my card, but right when the year was about to end, I was caught
talking in class with a friend named Danny Dayani, who sat next to me, and I had to change my card to
yellow. I blamed Danny for it, because he was always talking in class, but I still had to change my card.
After a fast and fantastic year, summer came quickly, and with it my 8th birthday. My 8th
birthday was mellow, but pleasant. I remember my mother inviting a few of my friends from my second grade class
and we had a cake. During my weekend at father’s house, we all went to the restaurant Typhoon in
Santa Monica to celebrate it. It was quite a fancy restaurant next to a small airport, and they had a lot of
exotic dishes that I tried.