I grew up in a neighbourhood where the sound of streetcars passing by on tracks would lull me back to sleep- metal against metal. My family moved around a lot when I was a kid. We rented all types of houses from bungalows to townhouses to the ground level of a detached home. Mostly, we lived on busy downtown streets facing a main road. Oftentimes, in the middle of the night, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to hear casual outbursts from random street kids or inebriated men stumbling down the road. These sounds never frightened me but comforted me with a feeling of familiarity. Comfort in the way that you know you’re not alone, like in a vast forest, but instead surrounded by other people- families packed like sardines in tiny apartments. I simply didn’t know to expect any different.
Then, as I got older and saw where my friends lived, I started to piece together that the way my family was living was anything but ordinary. Majority of my friends lived in clean and uncluttered homes. They had their own decorated rooms with a plethora of plush toys lining their headboards. Because of my acute awareness of how unusual my family was, I was very cautious about letting people near my house. I say ‘near’ because very few friends ever actually got to come inside. I was always the kid who insisted on taking the bus home by myself or requested my friend’s parents to drop me off a block away from my house.
I was constantly hyper-focused on dodging certain questions I knew I’d inevitably be asked by other friends or parents of my friends. Where do you live? How many people live in your house? You share a room with your grandparents? Why can’t I ever come over to your house? What do your parents do for work? How come your parents couldn’t come to the school play? What’s your curfew? Don’t your parents want to know where you are?
There were never simple answers to any of these questions. Each answer would have earned me more questions- of which I was never prepared to be forthcoming about. So, I learned to fib a lot or redirect quickly. I live just down the street- I like walking. I share a room with my sister. My parents don’t like us having people over. My parents are working so they can’t come to the play. My curfew is pretty much the same as your curfew. Now, reflecting on my childhood experiences, it’s interesting to see what type of traits I developed to “blend” in, in all sorts of settings.
In my early 30s, my husband and I traded in my tiny one-bedroom condo in a bustling neighborhood for a detached house in an adjacent suburb outside of Toronto proper. When we first moved to this house, the quiet was eerie. A bit too eerie for me. The sound of crickets in the night would keep me up and the birds chirping in the early mornings would wake me from my sleepless nights. I longed to feel the nostalgia of those streetcar tracks and car tires hitting pavement. Still, I take nothing for granted because I never want to forget where I come from, how long it’s taken me to get here, and what that turbulent journey has gifted me with in my life.
Where do you come from?
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