Where I Come From

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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51 thoughts on “Where I Come From

  1. I think every part of our life is an experience that made us who we are, and yes, we should never forget from where we come from…I come from a country that made me ashamed of myself for quite a while until I’ve started to travel the world and see that every country has its good and its bad, so people who judge me don’t affect me anymore…

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    • That’s terrible that you had to suffer through an upbringing full of shame- I’m sorry that was your reality then, but I love that you turned that around and decided that exterior voices would no longer influence you or how you felt about yourself (especially negative chatter)! That’s amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your story! 🙂

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  2. It’s so interesting how our childhood experiences shape up, and follow us into adulthood, and glad to hear you can look back on those feelings of discomfort with some nostalgia. I grew up in a *very* quiet suburb. I wore a uniform to school and vividly recall throwing off the stiff dress and putting on play clothes before meeting up with neighborhood kids, and I rarely had friends over because I was embarrassed that we didn’t have cable TV, soda, or “good” snacks like my friends’ families.

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    • haha cable tv, soda or “good” snacks! The things we worry about as kids, eh? There’s something so sweetly innocent about that thought.

      I love hearing about everyone’s upbringing and history and how that affected them. Thanks so much for sharing! 😀

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  3. I love this post and how you explain how you grew up. There’s value in knowing where you came from. I spent the first 8 years of my life living in an apartment above my father’s medical office; he was a small-town GP [general practice doctor]. The building was in a mixed use zoning area near downtown, on a busy noisy street with many businesses, and people showed up at our door at all hours. Then we moved to a real house in an older residential part of town– and I was shocked by how quiet it was. Took some getting used to.

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  4. Oh gosh, this post was so inspiring 😍😭. Indeed, we must never take anything for granted. Most of the times, we are insecure about so many things. But later we realize how much those things were a part of our lives and we miss them!! Great post!

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    • (Pressed send too early, damn thumbs) I love this blog, never forget where your from, never wish to change anything from your past, because every option you chose, every word you have said, every decision you have ever made makes you who you are. Always aim high, expect the worst in life but hope for the best, the only way to live. Live your life your way, live the way you want, life is full of experiences and it’s a one way trip so make the most of it. Thank you for this post, it has made me smile on such a shitty day.

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      • Yep – you just pretty much listed everything I believe in! 🙂 haha – thanks for reading and I am so glad you were able to relate and enjoyed it! Always a pleasure to hear positive feedback, so I appreciate you taking the time to let me know! 😀

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      • Feedback is always a pleasure, your very welcome, I enjoy it myself as it helps your character grow and helps you become a better blogger and a better person and also let’s you know what your readers like ….. and awesome, keep them spirits high and them morals level and just take life as it comes with a big smile on your face 😁

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  5. Ohhhh I love learning more about you, always! And as we’ve talked about before, I can relate to similar feelings of shame. I think in my case, I just blurted out my situation if anyone asked. Most people were nice enough about it. But my first 8 years where similar to you, in a city (parents divorced but both lived in the same small city), row homes, super urban. My mom kept her house nice and neat and pretty. My dad was not so much about that 🙂 Then dad got custody and we moved to the suburbs, which I LOVED! And still do. But we still saw mom in the city until she left (but that’s DEF another story). Then dad moved out even further and we had a big house in the woods, but still suburbs. So I have this unique perspective of living in all kinds of situations. And I lived in cities for years in my 20s and 30s. But now that I’m older I welcome the chirps and tweets and nature sounds outside and kind of dread city vibes. Wow that was a lot, r u sorry u asked?! 🤣🤣🤣

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  6. A lovely post, I can just imagine the sounds of your neighbourhood, real life! My two sets of grandchildren certainly live in bigger houses than their parents did. Amusingly one family are in their third brand new town house with an excess of bathrooms while the other branch bought an 1868 villa with all sorts of work needing doing and the two little boys have to share a bedroom anyway as the other rooms are too damp, but they like sharing.

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    • I, too, think the amount of bathrooms we have in our house is sometimes absurd! But it ultimately makes sense… you want a bathroom on each floor for convenience (top floor, main floor, basement). But then you also want an ensuite in the master for even MORE convenience… so for our modest 3-bedroom home, we have 4 bathrooms LOL… great in theory… but in hindsight not so great (lots to clean) but I won’t complain too much. It’s certainly a privilege. 🙂

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  7. That sounds like a really cool childhood in some ways! I’m sorry you felt like you had to act like you had a different life to fit in with your friends, although it’s very understandable.

    My parents moved from a duplex to a house in the country when I was about 3 years old. We had a cornfield right behind our backyard, and not even streetlights. I have some really good memories from that house! When I was 7, we moved again to a big suburban home, which is where my parents still live. I’ve always shared a room with at least a few siblings. It was a good childhood in a lot of ways!

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  8. Beautiful piece! I taught a lot of kids who were in your exact situation growing up. I’d overhear them answering their friends’ questions with similar evasive responses. It takes us a long time to process that our situations are not the same as those around us. I knew I came from a stable family growing up, but I didn’t truly comprehend my advantages (stability more than wealth as we were middle-class) until I taught and saw some of the environments my students came from. I taught plenty of poor families, and many of those kids were still happy. Perhaps they didn’t know any better, but mostly I think it came down to having love and stability in their home. Love is the great equalizer. I also saw the flip side—children who had all the financial benefits but weren’t truly happy because their parents didn’t spend enough time with them—Incredibly sad!

    One experience particularly stays with me. In 6th grade, it was traditional for the teacher to take the class on some kind of end-of-year celebration. Some teachers even took their classes to big cities like San Francisco. (not me—I’d be too nervous) My sixth-grade teaching partner and I took our students camping overnight (3 days-2 nights). to a campground about 30 miles away. Of course, this wasn’t a mandatory thing, as not every family or child would be comfortable in this situation. The kids slept in tents with groups of 3-4. (Teachers slept in their own tents.) It wasn’t until the first trip that I realized how many had never gone camping before. It was so common in our family that I took it for granted—a real eye-opener to see how happy some of them were on their first-ever camping experience. Did I have second thoughts about going? Every year! There was nothing that was more tiring. We really were sticking our necks out on the line with all the responsibility that comes with such an undertaking. To this day, I’ll run into kids (now adults) and they’ll say, “Remember that time you took us camping?” It was a big deal to them.

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    • The way you grew up Pete, is how I want to raise Charlotte. I want her to have the privileges of a good stable family with plenty of unconditional love. It’s heartwarming to know that as a teacher you noticed students like me who may have had a tough family life and tried very hard in school to walk that fine line between what they can share and what they don’t want to share for fear of shame.

      That camping story is such a great story to share because that’s exactly it- normal, ordinary things that most people take for granted is what kids like me never had the opportunity to do (at least in the North American version of “normal”). I love that the leap of faith you made to take them on this big undertaking of a camping trip paid off immensely because they were able to show you years later how much it’s still impacted their lives. I think that’s so special! 🙂

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  9. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I can imagine how quiet your new house must have felt after living in the bustle of the city your whole life.

    I grew up in a terraced house at the top of a cobblestone street in the north of England. Ours was the end house in a short terrace of just 3 houses. At the bottom of our street was a very busy road so we were never allowed to have bikes because my parents were nervous about us riding bikes down the hill and into the busy traffic. The cemetery was across the street from our house. We used to play there and in the fields beside our house. We also spent hours sitting on a stone wall at the end of one of the side streets.

    The last time I went back to England, someone had bought all three of the terraced houses and turned them all into one big house. It was odd because it kind of looked the same from the outside but I was so curious about what it looked like inside. The fields where we used to play are now filled with large detached houses – quite the contrast from the modest, terraced houses on the rest of the street.

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  10. What a lovely story. I used to live right next to a mosque, and I would totally tune out the blaring sounds of prayers five times a day. Then I lived near an airport and barely remember being bothered by the low-flying planes. Now I live next to a busy street, and boy everything seems to just annoy the heck out of me. Would love to be out in the suburbs. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, you’ve lived in noisy places! lol.. It’s interesting you were able to tune out the low-flying planes but can’t stand the busy downtown sounds lol… where I live it’s a pretty busy air strip and it can be noisy to people who aren’t used to it but we don’t notice it most of the times! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  11. Pingback: The week gone by — Nov. 7 – A Silly Place

  12. Your story reminds me of how my mother felt growing up, as a child of an alcoholic (and an alcoholic enabler). She was always afraid to bring kids home, because she never knew how drunk her mother would be. It carried over to when I was an adult, living on my own…I wasn’t allowed to show up without a call, letting her know I was coming over.

    Also, I’ve been thinking about clutter and hoarding and if there’s a tie between that and income insecurity. So thank you for inspiring me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Erin! That’s so nice of you to read and leave such a lovely comment. I’m glad you can relate to my post in some way. It can be a scary task to write about things in my childhood I’ve never actively reflected upon or discussed until now so it’s great to see others relate to it.

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