Memoir in the Making
Sometimes I want some peace and quiet. You know, when do I have time to myself? As I am working on this assignment, my five-year-old is babbling about how he doesn’t want his sister in his room and he really needs to use the computer as soon as I am finished with my work. Oh yeah, he wants to sit right here and wait on me to finish, too. How can I work like this? Well, God said he would not put more on us than we can handle, but sometimes I know I put more on myself than I can handle.
It has been a fairly treacherous path to where I sit now. Thirty years old, two children and three years into my second marriage and teaching for five years with an almost complete graduate degree. The odds were against me from the beginning. . . .
“You will never amount to anything! You’re stupid and don’t have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot with the directions printed on the bottom!” These are a few of the words of encouragement I received from my father growing up. I can’t explain all of the fusses, fights, multiple moves, low self-esteem and hatred I felt towards him growing up. It wasn’t until his death that I even realized I did care for him. This is something I still sort through and probably always will. I just know I grew up asking, “Why me” and “Why not some other family” for a very long time.
I wanted to live in the popular districts or just a regular subdivision. Instead, I was tossed back and forth from trailer to apartment, knowing that as soon as I felt remotely comfortable there we would be moving. This endless parade of what I refer to as the “relocation program” did not end until my junior year of high school. Sometimes I am still jealous of my sisters because they never endured the multiple moves as I did. Is that fair? To be envious of someone because of what she did not have to go through? Honestly, I am glad they did not have certain aspects to add to their lists of painful childhood memories. Lord knows, the five of us have more than enough.
“Just wrap the washrag around your neck after you finish gargling with this warm salty water.” Mama offered backwoods nursing techniques for strep throat or any other flu-like symptom I had growing up. I remember my brother’s tonsils swollen so large that he appeared to have huge tennis balls sticking out around his esophagus. Why couldn’t we go to the doctor—that’s an easy one—no money and no sympathy for children who tried to horn in on daddy’s drinking fund. Eight year olds should not have a concept of “what if the lights get cut off” or toting pots of hot water to the orange-stained bath tub in order to have semi-warm water to wash in before school the next day. The image of the bathroom in Fight Club haunts me as a room I once had in a rundown house we lived in.
I felt most sorry for my brothers since they were in high school at the time. I never remember not being aware of how incredibly different my white family was in comparison to the white families around me. For example, my brothers were pretty popular in their day and had many rich, uppity girls wishing for a date. Date? How could they take out anybody—the girls would provide transportation, money—it was a bit odd. Still, my brothers focused intently on “saving face” and believing nobody at school knew or could even imagine how we lived day to day. On any given school morning it was typical to see my brother up before washing his hair in cold water over the kitchen sink with his jeans laying across the oven behind him drying. My other brother was always on the lazy side, and he would be up much later, frantically trying to achieve his routine in record time before school. I sat back and observed—recording these memories in my heart and embedding them into my soul.
I keep saying I am going to write a book one day about my childhood and the issues of poverty and alcoholism that affected my entire family. We were the outcasts at family reunions: the “others” who did not have transportation to attend family weddings, funerals, or other important events. Never mind that we also did not have proper attire for these functions or even proper nourishment in our home. Poverty is a hard issue to grasp—money becomes your cure-all for any and all problems. One thing is certain—I promised and prayed every day that I would not live like this as an adult and I would never raise my children under such conditions.
So what do I have to complain about? I have a nice house, nice truck, beautiful children, loving husband, good job, opportunities to further my career, bonds with my family, what more do I need? An outlet would be nice; yes, a source to share this information and hopefully inspire someone to get out of a difficult situation and not become that monster that you grew up with. It takes grit, determination, and a real stubborn attitude to achieve. Fortunately for me, I inherited the stubbornness from both sides.