Yesterday I had to go through my old neighbourhood for work and boy was it interesting.
Not a lot has changed, it's still the same kind of area it always was... low income, high crime, troubled.
I drove right through my old complex and saw my old place... my old parking spot, my old staircase, my old front door.
It really took me back, almost to the point of tears.
We lived there when my mom was still a single-mom. She waitressed and us three girls were aged 3, 5, and 8, me being the 8. I went to the local school from Grades 2-5 which for me was a very long time in one place.
We had moved a lot when I was a kid, mostly because of my dad and the trouble he'd find... or create..... but now he was gone and we had a home of our own for more than a year.
I met a lot of friends, I still see some of them today.
I had a lot of babysitters... though most of them did nothing, it was me who took care of us three girls when my mom was at work. Then I'd report to mom what chaos the babysitters got into... smoking, drinking, trying on mom's clothes, boys over... always something...and we'd get a new babysitter.... temporarily.
Most of the families who lived in my neighbourhood were single-parented, if that. Many unemployed, on welfare or struggling as my mom did with a low paying job.
Us neighbourhood kids ruled the 'hood.... with parents working all the time, or passed out after blowing a welfare cheque on booze and sedatives to erase the pain that was their lives, us kids would sneak out, and run wild.
Running wild at that age meant meeting in the forest behind the complex for hide and seek, swimming in the creek, piling into someone's basement to play Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo or riding our bikes past our "territory" to the corner store with change we stole from our parent's coin tins.
We had such vivid imaginations, we created a world of our own. We were princes and princesses of our own universe and believed our own happiness, at least until the sun went down.
Even after curfews, if our parents even noticed it had come and gone, we could sneak out and play as late as we liked.
In the winter time we used plastic bags and cardboard to create our own sleds to slide down the hilly snow-covered terrain that surrounded our complex...
In the summer time we would pick flowers and braid daisy headbands, race our banana seat bikes helmetless down the hot cement hills....
We were young and when we were together we were carefree...
Sadly, many of us were not so carefree at home.
We all had our own set of issues... I remember some of the things I saw and experienced, some of the situations my best friends were in.... things no child should have had to endure....
I remember my mom letting friends stay over night, even on schooldays to avoid those situations that were their everyday horrors.... we'd stay up too late, and be tired at school after giggling all night, escaping whatever reality they had waiting for them at home.
Driving through my old neighbourhood yesterday brought back a flood of memories, good and bad, that mad me feel such strong emotions, like it was just yesterday, not over 20 years ago, that we snuck through the forests and hopped along the river...leaving the real world behind.
How I wish sometimes I could just escape the real world and skip rocks along the river, build forts with fallen branches and laugh so hard I rolled down the hill without caring about grass stains.
It was not an ideal childhood for many of us, but we got through it and we overcame it and we learned from it.
I still talk to many friends from back then, we don't often reminisce about the good old days... for those good old days bring back harsh memories for many but I am so glad to know they got out and are still here today.