We just moved in to Bee Bee road, on the 2nd floor of the apartment building. We were the last unit on the left . We were the first ones to live in this space, I still remember the smell of the new carpet and paint, somehow knowing I had never lived in such newness before in my life.
In the living room there was a huge picture window that looked out to dozens of old, sturdy, billowing oak trees that made a swishing sound in the wind. Just beyond the trees, a pond. ( My Mother still to this day at 74 says that was the best sound in the world, when she opened the windows and the wind was blowing through the oak trees. It was a trance like sound that I would lay in bed with the windows open and listen to for most of my childhood.)
It boasted two nice size bedrooms and a storage room so big that later in the years, my brother would use it as a bedroom. We had arrived! Or so I thought. My brother and I would run from floor to floor of the building, hiding in the secret spaces that lie behind the stairwells. We would beg my Mom for all her change so we could go buy cans of pop from the vending machines in the laundry room. We had a playground in the front of the building and a beautiful court-yard in the back with picnic tables and fresh-cut grass.
There were game rooms on every floor, with pool tables and ping-pong tables. And party rooms where for years the residents would host Halloween party’s and Christmas parties , the likes of which I had never seen before.
We gained hundreds of new friends, all kids our age. It was like living on the playground. You were never more than ten doors from someone you could play with, talk to , confide in.
It was 1977 by the time the building was three-quarters filled up. I remember the year, because I remember my Mother threw me a bicentennial birthday party. We all dressed in Red, White and blue. My cake was the American flag. The table cloths that covered the picnic tables outside were red, the balloons white and blue. The kids scurried about , screaming and playing tag, the mothers drank their coffee and howled with laughter. It was perfect. Except for the fact that we were on an island of misfits. Men were absent, all the women single, hard-working mothers who had escaped the confines of their unhappy marriages. Some fleeing abuse, others alcoholism. All chasing the dream that their lives could be, would be better and more fulfilled if they had complete control of their destiny’s.
We were cast away’s from mid-class America, latch key kids raising ourselves and sometimes our younger siblings. While other kids in my school went home to Mothers in the kitchen and home-baked snacks on the table, most of us came home to empty homes, only the rules we set for ourselves and lists of chores to be completed before we could venture outside to play.
Men were absent, ghosts of memories that played in our heads. We never spoke of them amongst each other as if we all knew that tiny spot at the center of our hearts that our Fathers had not so long ago filled up, were now locked forever. We had already lost a key part to our identity, lost the safety and security of those with both parents. We were already survivors and we would stay in that mode , some for decades to come.
For me growing up Fatherless left me in this paradox of trying to be fiercely independent like my Mother, and desperately seeking the approval and love of men. You can’t be both, but I would try to be well into my late 40’s. As you can guess, this never worked in my favor, or in favor of the men I confused the hell out of for some 20 years.
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought it down
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too
*Fleetwood Mac 1975*