Living in shelters wasn’t always that bad.
We got to check a couple of them out when I was growing up.
I can actually tell you which one I liked the most.
It was so fly.
At least in my childhood mind it was.
My favorite one was a shelter in the suburbs of Philly; in a part of the state that they actually seemed to care about.
The streets were clean and the grass was abundant.
Never got that experience back in the hood.
Hood was home though.
Before our shelter stints, I had never seen places so bright and full of so much hope.
Especially not as much as I saw in this one shelter.
I loved being there.
They had these people who took me and my brother into rooms to go play and talk.
I now realize that they were therapists.
And at the time, it didn’t much matter to me how we ended up there.
But apparently, The How is pretty important.
It was usually the result of these top secret master plans devised by my mom after something chaotic happened at the house between her and my father.
It could be something like the cops being called by my adolescent self to stop the madness. Or some big screaming match between the two of them.
You just never knew.
I got to be her accomplice, grabbing last minute essentials that she couldn’t pack before the escape. At least not without causing suspicion in my dad.
I recognized that time was of the essence and that I couldn’t let Mommy down.
And I didn’t.
So yes, the shelters were mini vacations.
My parents were separate (read: peaceful) and our needs were met.
It wasn’t a war zone there.
I felt normal or whatever you would call it.
There was a huge playroom at the shelter, with nothing but toys. They would send all of the children in there when the moms were having important conversations with the staff.
Out in the backyard, they had a gym set that we had access to, just like any of the other mothers and their children did.
This place was a kid heaven. Or rather, a kid haven.
We never lived like this.
The pantry was always full of food and I remember the mothers taking turns to cook dinner each night.
I think they had a chore list or whatever.
Rich people would drop bags of donated clothes off and we got to go through them.
They were good hand-me-downs. Good enough for my appearance to not scream SHELTER, in my head.
Welp, the kids at the school were hip (and smart).
They picked on me on the school bus for my bus stop looking different than theirs.
(For privacy reasons, the bus couldn’t drop us off right in front of the shelter. But hell, everybody knew I didn’t live in no damn vacant lot.) 😒😒
The kids didn’t play with me at recess.
I looked different than them. And they probably knew I wasn’t going to be there long, so what was the need?
They even picked on my shoes that I chose from the bag of clothes.
Tip: Please try and teach your children to be kind to others.
But that was all I had.
My real clothes were at home. In the hood. With my dad.
And after long, we would all be back there again with them and him again.
I know, because we had been here before.
All dysfunctional and shit.
What not to do: Do not stay in an unhealthy relationship “for the kids”. It’s hard for all parties involved to flourish here.
I know, because I lived it.
Needless to say, I learned how to adapt.
These experiences may have affected me even more than I know at this moment.
Which is why I have chosen to heal.
Damn, this is a lot of unpacking.
But I’m home.
+ Ci Ci +