Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?
Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences.
The Stoop – Part 2
When I was 12 years old, I grew up in a little bungalow in a quiet suburb, just across the bridge from the downtown core. My two parents, my four older brothers and me in a little bungalow … a bungalow I still visit every single day.
A few years before I was born, my family moved to that house. After years of hard work, our parents scraped up enough money to escape Ste. Catherine Street’s hustle, bustle and flashing neon lights. As told by my mother, one day she came home from one of her jobs to see my brothers peering out the small apartment window. To anyone else, my brothers probably would have looked like normal little children, anxiously waiting for their mother to come home. But in her eyes, the only thing my mother saw were little prisoners in a cramped cell, surrounded by concrete buildings and no green spaces to play. It broke her heart.
And that was the day she promised herself that her children would have a house and a backyard of their own to play. The days of looking for bigger apartments that they could afford but would likely be refused from would come to an end. No more hearing the question “How many children do you have?” or “If they take dogs and Jews, maybe that building over there might take you” by landlords trying to be friendly but who would never chance losing current tenants.
And that is how our family ended up in the suburbs.
Surrounded by francophones and no one else like us, we were the first “ethnic” English-speaking families around, something which immediately placed us in a position of “us” versus “them” when it came to the neighbors. Not because we wanted it that way but because “they” wanted it to be that way.
Childhood within the confines of our home was peaceful and secure – all was good with the world. But outside of that little bungalow was an entirely different situation. And it was all because we didn’t “belong”.
“Go back where you came from,” was one of the few English phrases Mr. R knew how to say clearly in his deep accent. It didn’t matter to him that our family had moved there before he had. Following their father’s lead, his two daughters would jeer and call us names in French, cross their eyes and stick their tongues out every chance they could get.
With language as a barrier and to pass along additional messages, they would use Valerie, the daughter of the Egyptian man next door, as a messenger.
“Tell them not to let their children’s ball go on our lawn because we won’t give it back.”
So naturally when we played outside, my mother stood like a soldier at the window, watching over us like a hawk.
“Mrs. G wants to know if you are pregnant again. Don’t you have enough kids?” was the message passed on innocently by Valerie a few months after I was born when my mother had not yet lost the baby weight. It was classic Mrs. G.
And then there was the day that a police officer in uniform appeared at the front door and ordered my parents to get rid of Bozo, the family dog, because of supposed noise complaints. Wanting to stay out of the hands of the police and not knowing better, our folks did what they were told. Sadly, there was no one to take Bozo and so off he went to the SPCA to be put down. A few months later, that very same police officer reappeared across the street at Mrs. G’s barbecue looking festive, happy and unashamed. You see, he was a cop. But he was also Mrs. G’s brother-in-law and not a member of our city police department – he would never have been sent to our house. The Egyptian neighbor let us know that it had all been a ruse – Mrs. G simply didn’t want us happily playing with the dog.
As you read this, you may be thinking of how difficult it must have been living with neighbors like that. But I can’t say that it was stressful for me. It was simply a matter of daily life back then.
It was what it was.
And now, it is what it is.
When I see these same neighbors almost every day when I visit my folks after work, I don’t think about the times they tried their best to make our lives difficult. I think about how those experiences made our family a stronger and unbreakable unit, the kind of family these neighbors wished they had with their own children.
I smile at the fact that they now make it a point to say hello when they see my folks or to acknowledge my brothers presence with a nod of the head when they see them visiting. They are capable of returning the nod, something that I would never do.
And I smile even wider on the inside when I see Mr. R’s third and last daughter with her latest boyfriend of “color” or Mrs. G’s adopted granddaughter whose skin is the most beautiful shade of caramel.
Life is funny. And full of surprises, isn’t it?
©2015 Marquessa Matthews
Note the reader: I broke my rule of not reading other posts before submitting my own… 🙂 And after reading so many amazing Day 11 submissions, I decided to take a looser definition of “home” and a slightly more serious look at the outside environment of “home” when I was 12.