Bloodsigns wrote this very evocative post. It made me think of the times growing up when I wished I was somebody else.
I remember when I was a kid, I had this fantasy that my family wasn’t really my family. That one day, my real family, one with tons of money, would come rescue me from this pack of backward people. We would have lovely meals (no more thin crappy pork chops, tough steak or chicken thighs) at the table and we would talk and laugh at the dinner table. They would really want to hear what delightful things I had to say. I would be able to choose what I would wear to school every day and I would get stuff that I wanted at the mall. I’d have cool runners. I would have my own room and watch TV in it all night long if I wanted. They would help me with homework and I’d have ALL the encyclopedias in the alphabet. There’d be no yelling, screaming, crying or violence either. Especially that.
I also wondered what it would be like if I was white. I was pretty sure my life would be better. Like on the Brady Bunch. First of all, I’d have long, flowing, silky hair. Neither I or my sisters were blessed with “good” hair. I would spend entire Saturdays in a hair salon with some crazy woman eating over my head and wielding a hot comb through my nappy hair and usually burning my ear. I bet ya Buddha couldn’t have meditated his way through that. Mother was always trying to find a new product to grease up our scalps so our hair would grow. If I had long hair, I would be pretty and boys would be nicer to me. I’d have more friends and therefore more sleepovers. I would be invited to all the birthday parties. If I was white, we would have better loot bags for our birthday parties. And a real cake, not one of those things my mum made, but a white cake with perfect white frosting. I’d have boyfriends and go on double dates and put Sun-In in my hair. No one would follow me around in the stores assuming I was planning on shoplifting.
I was friends with this little blonde boy, his hair was almost white he was that blonde. His mother had a birthday party and took us and his friends to the movies. We watched a Charlie Chaplin movie and had popcorn and pop. I was in heaven! She talked to me, was so kind to me, I couldn’t believe an adult actually paid any attention to me at all. I think she was European, Swedish or something, she had long, blonde hair. One of the most amazing things was that they had lots of food in their fridge and something called yogurt. I tried it, didn’t think much of it at all, but I really wanted to like it. Once she even let me wear one of her snowsuits home when it started to snow. I was pretty darn sure that happiness lived in that house with the huge fridge stocked with yogurt. Years later, when it wasn’t cool for boys to hang out with girls anymore, and he pretty much ignored me, I heard his mum died. I grieved in silence. No one ever knew how much her kindness meant to me. I still remember the boy’s name. I always wished I could have told her thanks for including me.
The “having nice things” part I didn’t associate with money or class per se, but skin colour. I learned about class later. When I was grown and went to Barbados on my own to visit relatives, mum told me that I should act better than anybody else and that people would respect me and the town boys wouldn’t bother me. I tested out her theory. Oddly, she was correct. It’s a lesson I never forgot. Not that I act that way anymore, but the second I feel that I’m out of my element and in hostile territory, that’s exactly what I do. It works in those high end stores where you can’t even find the price tags and in high end hotels when you want a better room. Odd, but true. I suppose she felt that it added an extra layer of armour when your mere existence was not enough.
When I got older, I realized the advantages of class and privilege. Most people I knew had to apply for jobs, no one had a family business to work in. Not many of my friends had vehicles bought for them by their parents, or could afford a masters degree. Nobody “hooked me up” with anything. We didn’t have a cottage or go on family vacations or go skiing. I went to music camp once. that was a big deal and my mum had to beg my dad for the money for that one. The viola I played in school belonged to the school. It had to be returned. If you wanted money for anything, you had to get a job. Or go without it. The only way I got to study acting in the States, was because my mother took out a bank loan. I worked all summer waitressing and instead of getting the root canal I need to save a tooth, I opted to keep the money for school. It was a one shot deal.
It’s odd for know my friend has medals from her equestrian days in high school. She had ski equipment and exotic vacations and tons of fashionable clothes growing up. She had a joe job. Once. For the experience of it. She’s always had fancy, new cars. Not that her life was picture perfect, but she’s never had to choose between one thing or another. Never had a can of beans waiting for you in the cupboard or rolling pennies and bringing them into the bank in a bag.
I’m no longer envious of that kind of stuff, I just find it curious. Like life on a foreign planet. But I remember those days when I would stare out my window and wait for my “real” family to come get me. I don’t think it’s the material things I missed so much, I just wanted to know what it was like to live without uncertainty and dread.