from whenst we came

I have been mulling over this post of Sarah's all day about the kids from her block. Like, her figurative block. The block she has created for herself. She wrote this post today, the day I started writing my story in an old spiral-bound notebook B had leftover from his school supplies. I don't really dig the typing. I like pencils.

Anyway, my story begins where my story begins. Age 6. That's about as far back as I can remember with any real clarity. The day my parents separated. Whew, I remember that day. But that's not what this post is about. It's about MY block and how I am so not from that block.

I grew up sp freaking far below the poverty level we could not see it. We lived on $525 a month. 5 of us lived on that. I wore my brothers old underwear until I was 13. My father bought me my first bra at 16. The first time I bought new clothes at an actual store I was 17. We played in dumpsters. We ate at school, free breakfast and lunch. Dinner happened every few days. During the summer we all lost a lot of weight.

When I got pregnant with B I was a waitress, 22, single. His prenatal care and birth were covered fully by the friendly people at Planned Parenthood through Medicaid. Every month, when I went in for my check-up, they would have the social-worker chick sit down with me and go over the options for WIC and food stamps and subsidized housing and all that jazz and every month I would say thank you, no, I am fully capable of feeding and clothing and housing myself. They would look at me funny and say things like, "But you qualify for all this assistance." And I would look at them funny and say things like, "But I don't need it." I had a job, I had some income, and I had some pride. I like earning a living, albeit through waitressing or whatever random thing I'm doing.

I think back to the kids I grew up with, the kids on my block. We grew up in one of those income-controlled neighborhoods where almost no one had a job and almost everyone had a drug-problem. My mother certainly never had a job for one minute of her whole life, none of my friends' moms did, either. Well, there was that one lady, but we all idolized her and this story is not about her. Most of the adults we knew we not the best role-models the world has ever known or ever will know. We had no one to look to who "made it out" or did some great thing with their life. It was just this depressing cycle of pregnancy and welfare and boyfriends and social workers and police cars.

But I got out. With no role-model, no example, no guidance, no encouragement. I just refused to live like that anymore. It's no way to be. My brother also got out. It took him a bit longer, but he is busy living a lovely little life right now, complete with 3 kids, a wife, a couple dogs and a college degree.

But most of the people I knew, most of the kids on my block, are still there. Almost all of them have a bunch of kids with a bunch of different daddies, don't work and live off welfare. They kinda all live in the same literal neighborhood, actually. Nobody has a car, everybody has a track mark.

I don't know if this makes me a great big fat bitch, but I just don't get it. We all hated growing up like that. We used to talk about how when we grew up and how different things would be and on and on. Maybe I just got lucky, but I don't think that's it really. I didn't really ever have any help, there was no big break, I had to figure it all out myself, I certainly didn't have any great parental guidance or anything, I just got up every day and went to work. Above minimum wage work. I refused to accept for even one minute that the life I lived was the life I had to keep on living. I guess maybe no one told my old friends that.

So, my point here is that the kids from my block--so not the "kids from my block." My block has fences and gardens and shit. I sometimes find it hard to believe that I actual, for reals, grew up where I grew up. I mean, I wore cheap clothes and ate stale bread, but I read physics books while I did it. My head was always on Sarah's block. I thought everyone's was.