my complicated relationship with my home state & family05 Jan 2017
where and with whom i grew up is a tough thing for me. both of my parents grew up pretty poor. i have no shame about that and i don’t think they do either (though i could be wrong; i should ask). but it seemed clear to me growing up that they made every effort they could to put my brother and i on fast tracks to success. we lived in middle-class neighborhoods and even owned a pretty large 3- or 4-bedroom house near the end of my high school days. i still remember our living room being large enough that i could play hacky sack with a friend with no problem.
all that to say, i grew up in pretty white neighborhoods with well resourced, “good schools.” i was often one or two or three black students in my class or grade level. i read a lot, was good at math, did martial arts, and played violin and trombone. i was little and a nerd.
i say all this to say, i didn’t really fit in. i was a floater (as are many of the people i associate with now, interesting trend…). i had friends at all the lunch tables because i didn’t really feel that comfortable identifying with any single group all the time. i was too white for most of the black kids (“well-spoken,” “smart,” the usual coded supremacist language targeted at nonwhite young people to make them realize that they can’t be whatever they are AND things characterists that belong to white people), too little for the sports kids (tae kwon do doesn’t count as a real sport), and too nerdy for the cool kids (why did i make such a point of reading all the books on our classroom reading lists?).
i can look at all this stuff now through an oppression analysis and it all makes sense. but those early years of developing a strong relationship with my family and physical home didn’t really happen for me. we also didn’t visit my parent’s families that often. maybe a couple of times a year and i remember not having fun most of the time (most of my extended family still lives around where my parents grew up).
it’s also really hard to be home for me because my dad is a pastor and the black church is still mostly homophobic. case in point: this happened literally days ago: kim burrell goes on a pulpit tirade against homosexuality.
as a result, i have very weak ties to physical home and family and left florida as soon as possible (freshman year of college). i shipped off to boston, oh oh oh…
but now, largely as a result of my deepening analysis, i know that i need to connect to my family and my history/past. my work through infinite growth has also reminded me that family can be a mutually beneficial resource if you put the work in. i didn’t do that when i was young, but it’s never too late.
anyways, all of this is a lead up to say that when i went home for this past winter break, i heard some things from my dad and aunt and grandma that remind me that who i am is shaped by people in my family, even if i’m unaware of it.
- i whistle a lot (and pretty well). when whistling around my dad’s house, he said, “wow boy, you whistle just like your grandma ruth. she loved to whistle.” i never wished my grandma was still alive more than that moment. i wonder if i got that from her during the days we spent with her when i was young.
- i love eating double-stuf oreos before bed. one night before bed while standing in the kitchen, i watched my dad pull down a package of golden oreos and dunk some in water (he’s lactose-intolerant) before bed.
- i stay busy and i travel a lot. mama brown (my play grandma) said on the phone to me, “dang you and yo daddy are just alike. can’t nobody hold y'all down.”
- i didn’t drink til i was 21 but now i drink maybe 4 drinks a week. i had forgotten this (even though it shaped why i didn’t drink til i was 21), but my dad has two siblings who died in alcohol-related incidents. the more brutal of the two cases was my uncle. he was drunk one night, picked a bar fight with the wrong people, was followed out of the bar by them, and then beaten up and thrown onto some railroad tracks to be hit by a train. one of my dad’s other brothers had to i.d. the body and hasn’t really been the same since.
so yea. family and home are tough for me, but i think i need to change that. when and how quickly i don’t know, but i’ll figure that out as it goes.
ps - this is the most public i’ve been about this ever. i hope it doesn’t blow up in my face or backfire somehow. i also didn’t really go back and edit this one at all (need to get going to work!). hopefully it’s coherent. or not. whatever. done better than perfect.
spell-check, link-finding, & formatting: 1:01