Where It All Started

Where It All Started

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d live less than a mile from my childhood home. We don’t go by there, we don’t talk about it much, it’s just another house in the neighborhood right across from us. But I know it’s there. The house I lived in for most of my childhood, where a majority of my childhood memories were made, and the structure that held the experiences that built so much of who I am today. 


While on a walk with Carter the other day, I thought I’d share this place with him. At 10 years old, in his typical too cool stage, I hoped to share something different with him that might make a connection. I told him I had something to show him but he was yet to show any amusement. I gave him a hint and shared with him that we’d go past the house where I grew up. This didn’t help. I was just met with a side eye glance, a look of half belief. 


We started to approach the block and he asked me which house?… what looked the same?… what was different? I started explaining how my parents put in that bay window, while the net and backboard are different- my dad installed the pole for the hoop. The pool in the backyard is gone and the garage door is different but there was one thing I hoped was still there…


“Here Carter, here’s where I lived.” Kicking away the whirlybirds with my flip flop, clearing the rocky curb at the end of the driveway, I pointed to the carvings in the cement. He looked a little closer, he started to see it. “Valdes! Leanne. Kristy. Danielle. Your sisters mom! And Jeni- that’s you!”


And I did it! I excited the unexcitable. He thought it was soooo cool. He wanted to take a picture of it and with it. He kept reading it and running his fingers through the grooves over each letter. Then he wanted to know more. He asked more questions- about my parents, about the house, about the neighborhood, about my childhood. He was excited to tell his little brother and his dad what we had seen. He told me he hadn’t originally believed me. He thought I was just going to show him a house and tell him it was mine. But the proof was in the writing, the evidence clearly written in cement...literally. I had him reeled in. This perfect little moment where I could show him and prove to him that he can trust me and that I had a history to share with him about where I came from and who I am, besides just Mom.


We continued our walk in the direction of home and I started to organize my brain into which experiences and which stories were appropriate for his 10 year old mind. The best pool party I ever remember for my 3rd grade birthday party...yes. The late night parties when parents were nowhere to be found...nope. The huge, real Christmas tree always filled with tinsel and lights...yes. The day I scrubbed the entryway grout with a toothbrush as punishment for my mom having to pick me up from the police station...nope. This one structure of brick and aluminum siding held so many stories, heartfelt and comforting, shocking and devastating, that it truly holds the key to who I am today. Who I am as a woman, as a friend, and as a mom. 


The stories I could share with him are endless. The good and the bad of course. But the beginning is really the only place to start…


That house was an achievement for our young family. When we moved in the summer before I started 3rd grade, it was the first house my parents owned. It was in a good neighborhood, the best school district around, it was BIG and had all that a middle class family in 1990 would want. My sisters and I all had our own rooms, the extra storage nook in the laundry room was converted to an office for my dad’s thriving business, the elementary school just 3 blocks away, and the pool in the backyard, I mean come on...in my 9 year old head we were soooo rich!


Most of my memories those first few years are filled with mom making breakfast, dad kissing her on the cheek with his carafe of coffee before he heads out for his day of work, walking to school with my sisters and our matching french braids and oversized backpacks, enjoying school and friends, riding bikes in the court until dark, meals as a family around the table, bedtime prayers and having it all on repeat.


My family has been through a lot of trials through the years and I have stories you would not believe, but one thing I have always felt I can look back on and appreciate are those young childhood years- those years between the ages of birth and about 12 where everything seemed perfect. We went to church on Sundays, took annual family vacations, got spankings when we misbehaved and got spoiled on Christmas and birthdays. We played family games and watched movies together, my sisters and I had the best demonstrations of playing “School” and “House” (as the oldest I was always the teacher and always the mom-it was great). Family parties, best friend sleepovers, family dinners being forced to eat all your peas, a dog, and even a new baby sister- which totally changed the whole getting our own rooms thing but our house was complete and filled with 90’s middle class perfection. 


Until it wasn’t. 7th grade was the year. It was the year everything changed for me, for us. Our perfect family was about to become a Lifetime Special real fast. I didn’t know it at the time but the hidden roots of our family, the ones my mom and dad had been cultivating, were rotten. And that rot was quickly creeping up the stems and into the beauty the rest of the world saw on display. This may sound like a preface for some devastating disaster, and while there was and still is devastation in our family, none of the stories I share are meant to induce pity or shame or sadness. They are all stories of growth, progress, evolution of self.


So stick with me here, grab your cup of coffee, and sit back for the stories that help create the people who we are, who we’ve become- myself, my family, and now my kids.




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