Archives For Growing up afraid

The Tenses of Forgiveness

December 21, 2013 — 69 Comments
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Daily Prompt: Forgive and Forget?
Share a story where it was very difficult for you to forgive the perpetrator for wronging you, but you did it — you forgave them.

At five I walked myself to school.

I was a “latch key” kid.  Came home after school.  Made myself a snack.  Did my homework amidst the cacophony of five brothers. Horseplay. Arguments. Guitar. Swearing.  Piano.  Fist Fights.

My mother stopped in between jobs. Rushing, rushing, always rushing. The clock ticked 60 brief minutes while she hastened to put a meal on the table before leaving for her night job at 7.

“Mommy, look, look, I got 100 on my math test!” was lost in, “Michael, go to the store – now. I forgot to get rolls for the hamburgers.” By the time I was 13, I was the one putting the dinner on the table, so she could just sit down and eat.  Take a breath.

I was 5th in a family of incredibly bright overachievers.  Everything I did had been done before. Huge successes were not celebrated – they were expected.

The legacy of success. Past, present and future tense.  Living in the shadows of brilliant siblings. Simple past tense.

My eldest brother, 10 years my  senior, was our surrogate father. One year, he coached me to follow in his footsteps as Citywide Spelling Bee Champion. But after winning my school spelling bee, and the Regional, and making in into the coveted Citywide,  I did the unthinkable.

I lost.

My mother only said, on the way home, ”I can’t believe I took a day off from work for that.”

I spent five long years after college in therapy ridding myself of corrosive anger. Five years to forgive her and love her, as I do now. Five years to come to the conclusion we all already know:

She did the best she could.  Simple past tense.

Don’t all parents? Don’t I?

I forgive her. She worked 7 days a week at minimum wage jobs.  Her entire life was devoted to making sure we had food, shelter, clothing. Accolades were luxuries she couldn’t afford.

And today, as the parent of only one child, I forgive her even more. I struggle to balance working as a single mom and raising just one child. She somehow raised 6 of us. How is this even possible? Something had to be sacrificed.

It was my self esteem.

I forgive her.

Every day, I tell my son that he is special. That is smart. Funny. Handsome.

That he matters. To me, and to many people.  I am breaking the cycle. Parenthood is breaking the cycle of error and wanting for our children what was not given to us.

But inherent in the process is new error. Will my life narrative limit my present, and mar his future?

The present. The future. The tenses of forgiveness.

Are my early experience fate? Or a road map to forgiveness?

Each day I make mistakes. I hope, when my son is a man, that he is compassionate when he recalls his childhood. I hope he will see that I did the best I could.

I hope he will forgive me, as I did my mother.

But this is not the simple past tense of forgiveness:  “I forgave her.”

It is the future continuous tense of forgiveness: “I will continue to forgive her.”

I forgive her right now, For every time I doubt myself. Right now, I forgive her, right before I hit “Publish.”

Will they like it? Will it be good enough? Am I good enough? I may never be.

I forgave.

I am forgiving her.

I will continue to forgive.

The tenses of forgiveness. Simple past, past not perfect, past perfect continuous,  present, present continuous, present not perfect.

Future. Future continuous.

Constant. Relentless. Persistent.

Forgiveness.

 

Did you forgive someone when it was difficult? Talk to me.  I’m listening. 

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Thankful for the Suburbs???

November 28, 2013 — 10 Comments

Wha?? Did Samara just write that? She, the curmudegeonly anti-suburbia wench?

I did. Please stick around. It’s Thanksgiving, and I bake. Yet another side to my many personalities. Add “Betty Effing Crocker” to my resume.

Once upon time, Gentle Reader, there were great stretches of land which grew up in symbiotic relationship with urban settlements. Then, Satan took over.

Lives in the Suburbs

Hmm- I need a place to live…

Created the Land of Life-Numbing Stupor.  Made the suburbs, a place devoid of independent thought. A place that lacks the spirit, community, creativity, individuality, the FIRE (ironically, since he’s Satan and all)  that make up the urban settlements.

And I worry for the future of my child – that what I thought was a move to ensure the quality of his education is actually going to inundate him with conformity and boredom. Even worse, entitlement and wealth where I live breed a generation of teens who are not kept in check by the realities of daily life.

My oldest and dearest friend, my roommate from freshman year of college, has been stricken with “The Big C.”

Last month, she had to have a radical mastectomy. She lives alone, and I traveled to Boston to spend the week and care for post-surgery.

She has been my sister-of-the-heart for 27 years. We met freshman year. We were not originally roommates. But it was arranged by fate.

By the second day, we recognized that we were each other’s counterpart. It is still so, to this day. But 27 years ago, there were no other girls like us in the dormitory.

To start, we were both from New York City.

I grew up dirt poor, on Staten Island, in what was notorious for being one of the worst housing projects in the five boroughs.  A white girl in a black world. No father. Absentee mother who worked all the time.

She was a Puerto Rican girl from the South Bronx projects.  A housing project is a housing project is a housing project. Ghetto cinderblock is the same no matter what borough. Dirt poor. Product of a broken home.

And there we were, on full scholarships, to a prestigious college.

We offed our existing roommates and buried their bodies in the arts quad so we could room together. (But actually just pawned them off on each other. Did they like one another? We didn’t give a shit.)

One day, I will write our adventures in college, for they are truly OUTSTANDING. Not at all academically. But in the width and breadth of chances we took – the things we did because we were New York City bad ass chicks-

While taking care of her, we reminisced about these times. Were we really so crazy/trusting/stupid/stoned that we did such things?

Like standing on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx with thumbs outstretched, hitchhiking our way back to college in upstate New York after Thanksgiving break?

Get into cars with strangers? Yes, and blithely so! Especially if there were 2 or 3 cute guys in the car.  The more, the merrier. Our own naiveté functioned as well as Psalm 91: God’s Umbrella of Protection.   For we got into not just cars, but vans, with groups of young men, and hitchhiked our way upstate and downstate many times.

We merrily recalled how several times we were  chauffeured all they way to our college town, right to the front door of our off-campus apartment, and “come right in, thank you very much”.  Wipe your feet. continue the party. Crash on the couch. Pick it up the next morning.

At one point, my college BFF was telling a story about her childhood, She said, “and I leaned out the window, and all of sudden, there was a shot, So, I stuck my head in, really fast. Cause back then, there would be gunplay.  You know.”

And I did know. It’s how I grew up. It’s what drew us together, 27 years ago, this past September. We were the only two people in that dorm who would know what that felt like.

27 years later, we’re still the only 2 people in each other’s lives who would know what that felt like.

And so today I give Thanks. Because as much as I despise the suburban aesthetic, I am so very grateful that my child is not afraid when he steps out the door.

He never has to worry that he will be chased home from school and beaten up routinely. His sibling will not get mugged on a paper route.  He will not come home to find his apartment burgled, his brother tied up on the floor. He will not watch another brother beaten with bicycle chains, and scream hysterically for help that never comes. His mother will not be forced at gun point to leave her car in a supermarket parking lot in broad daylight.

He is not growing up the way I did. He feels safe. He is safe. Thank you, God.

Oh, the pie. Here you go:

Think this looks good? – you should taste my cupcakes

Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours. I know you feel gratitude for all that you have. Please add feeling safe to the many gifts you have been afforded.

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