Today I took my children to my old hood. I grew up in poverty in a pretty rough neighborhood. I wasn’t really aware at the time how poor we were, because it was all I knew. But as I raise my own family in very different circumstances, I am reminded of how tough it was for my mum, raising three kids on her own in such a tough suburb. She kept a tight reign on us, and boy, I resented her for that at the time. Now, as a parent myself, I’m enormously grateful that she stood firm. In her wisdom, she set boundaries that kept us safe.
Driving around the streets I walked in my childhood stirred me. I still feel so connected to the place, despite it being 16 years since I left. I took the boys to the street I grew up in. I lived there for the first 19 years of my life. Sadly, I could only show them where the house once stood, before it was burnt to the ground. I then took them to my primary school. After that, we drove by my old church. I had to explain again that there used to be a church there, before the act of arson that destroyed it. Finally, we drove to the site on the hill that I walked up each morning for four years of high school. I will never forget the fog that we had to navigate in winter, barely seeing a few meters ahead. Rain would pelt relentlessly and we would sit in wet clothes in class. But stories are all I can share, once again. My old high school was torched and burnt to the ground. I always imagined that it would be more visually appealing taking my children down memory lane, but these familiar places are now just a picture in my minds eye.
The memories were so rich as I drove the streets of my childhood. I could almost hear the familiar sounds of our neighborhood antics. I felt the thrill of riding my bike down our street. I could still see the hordes of kids hanging out at the local park. I can still recall the layout of each of my schools and the faces of my teachers. I can remember the countless ways in which I set my room up, changing it almost as often as the seasons. Memories remain so alive, so vivid because my I reminisce so frequently. I tell stories often, because I don’t want my childhood to be invisible to my children. The house, the church and the school may be invisible to them, but they can still see my childhood. Through my eyes and my reminiscing they get a glimpse of the mummy they can truly relate to- the one that was just like them. A kid, once upon a time.
I’m grateful that despite having a childhood that was difficult on many levels, my brothers and I still reminisce about the good old days.