I spent my last night on the island sleeping on the floor, thinking about class.
This move has kicked up all sorts of things I’d rather not think about; like my reasons for moving. Some reasons, I’ve up front about: I don’t like the isolation, I want to be closer to friends and family, I feel I don’t belong.
These are all true and valid reasons, but they are not the main reason we planned and followed through with a 5000 mile move in less than 2 wks. The main reason is: I don’t think the island is good enough for my children.
Just thinking, typing those words sends a wave of guilt down my body. I think– How can you say that? How dare you say that a place isn’t good enough; look where your parents came from.
And it’s true. If you ever met my Father, you would never in a million years guess that he was raised in the notorious project in Boston. Oh yes. Don’t let my Sunday manners fool you, I come from ghetto stock. I could drop the name of the project, but I don’t need to. If you want to know, go to Barnes & Noble, read one of the heart-wrenching memoirs; it’s a famous place.
Once I hired a guy with a pick-up truck from craigslist to help move a sofa, and as we were driving to our destination he asked me if my family was from Boston. I said yes, and he pressed as to where exactly, and I told him, and he looked at me like I was a leper. No, worse than that. Like a leper pointing a 45 at his head. A gangsta leper. Heh. Anyway, this huge dude was afraid of me. 5ft 3in me; just cuz I dropped the name. So I don’t drop it anymore.
And my Dad, the one who actually lived there, never drops it. Never says anything about it, aside from, “It really wasn’t that bad.” When I was 13, I asked him how he got the enormous dent in the back of his head, and he admitted it was from being beaten with a rock on the school playground. I think it was that bad.
But he was lucky, in a way. Got into a fancy private high school, very prestigious college, MBA, great career. Hell, there’s a handsome brick building named after him in my hometown, and he’s still very much alive. Does all this make up for him growing up in the projects? I don’t know; maybe. In the US, maybe. In England, no. Definitely no. But I won’t get into that now. This will probably be a long post, and the lessons on class I learned in my 4 years in England need a new (equally lengthy) post entirely.
As for my Mom, she didn’t grow up in the projects, but not far from, and she wasn’t so lucky on the high school front. She went to the public school. In those days, the high schools were divided by sex. All the girls at my Mom’s bus stop carried knives and knew how to use them. But they weren’t all bad; she did have one friend with a knife, a girl who had already been expelled. Because it was a huge high school no one cared about, the girl kept coming, using different names, desperate to finish school, and she got away with it. She liked my Mom because my Mom was her polar opposite– quiet, studious, very Catholic. These traits kept my Mother out of trouble for the most part, but not entirely; trouble found her anyway. One of the bad girls starting tripping her in the hallway, throwing her books, shoving her. Things kept escalating, and my Mom kept ignoring the harassment in the hopes it would stop. Her friend from the bus stop asked about the situation and my Mom told her to forget about it, the girl would leave her alone eventually. But the friend wouldn’t drop it, she said, “Don’t worry about her, I’ll fix her.” And she did. Cut the girl up. That time they expelled her for real, and probably sent her to juvie or jail.
Shocking, huh? Wouldn’t happen at my high school either. I always wonder about that girl. Always picture her as some kind of knife-wielding dark angel, and wonder why the hell she did it. Maybe she was a bad girl and just felt like it. Or maybe it was a noble, albeit unnecessarily violent, self-sacrifice from a girl who’d blown it, to ease the way for a girl who hadn’t.
I guess we’ll never know, but if it was sacrifice, it wasn’t in vain. My Mom did get out, get to graduate school, etc.
It’s funny I’m dragging all this out now; stories you can only tell when you have an anonymous blog. Nowadays, my parents (separately, of course) drive a BMW and a Prius (kind of hilarious as I openly bashed drivers of both vehicles in a previous post, before my parents bought them) and would take enormous offense to my implication that they are from the gutter. Or rather, the American version of the gutter; not that we in America really know what the gutter is.
So what is the point of all this? Indeed. I’m starting to ask myself that same question. I think it boils down to this. While it’s not fair to compare the island to the worst parts of Boston, they are similar in one way: both have awful schools, with a lot of violence. And that’s not good enough for my children.It wasn’t good enough for my parents. That’s why they worked so hard; that’s why they left. My children shouldn’t have to. If they do, I have failed them.
So we left for a better job, better schools, and hopefully, a better life. It has not been easy. For the most part, the move has been terrible. Every morning there is a new, expensive crisis to deal with. I haven’t slept in days, and there are still a million vital complexities I haven’t even dealt with.
But it’s worth it. We’re working our asses off to make sure it’s worth it. Right now, I’m with the girls at my Mom’s house in Maine, my husband has just started his new job in Massachusetts, and our house in the central Pacific has just gone on the market. It’s complicated. But if all the stars align (and believe me, we’re sliding those stars around with elbow grease) we will be moving to the nicest town we know. Not the most exclusive town we know; we would never be let in were that the case. It’s beautiful there, and close to family, and the schools are great. So we’re trying. Really, really, hard.
Will the next house my children live in have a sweeping view of the ocean, like the house we’re selling now? No. Will we even have a house? Doubtful. Hopefully, a condo. But that’s fine. That’s more than fine. Houses come and go. Views come and go. A bright future is priceless.
And so worth all the shit we’re going through now.