Fantasy life

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.

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11 thoughts on “Fantasy life

  1. I had a fantasy life just like yours. I hated struggling for money. But as I have grown older, I have realized that money buy you just that much. Now I actually pride myself because I ‘made’ despite all the struggles. Lovely Post!

    PS: one question. How do you mange your SGI activities with the precious? I am having a tough time.

    • I used to be the assistant women’s group leader for my district downtown and my fellow leaders always made it easy for me by having planning meetings at my house. I’ve since switched districts so I’m not quite as active as a leader but I do what I can. My husband is usually around to take care of him when I’m at activities – and occasionally I bring him to meetings when hubby is out of town. It really does hinge on the Precious’ schedule and hubby’s availability, I’m lucky though, they are both supportive of my practice. The kid loves the meetings and all the attention – he’s spoiled rotten.

  2. Beautiful post. I’m sorry that kind mother passed away.

    I also learned, from a mentor, a similar lesson in getting a job: She told me: the most important thing is be agreeable in an interview, and have an excellent bag. Spend your money on the most posh one you can afford. Shoes, suits, nylons, trenches: they can be faked. But purses are the real deal.

    I had little money growing up and was totally broke after college. But I maxed out my credit card to buy a conservative Coach purse for my life’s most important interview. It worked and I have kept the bag philosophy since. My fellow pre-school moms could buy my pitiful net worth for spare change. But they don’t mess with me because of my beautiful Chanel tote, the most pricey thing I own and a present from hubby after the twins were born.

    Just wanted to say that I love your writing 🙂

  3. Wonderful post. I just started reading Shania Twain’s memoir & there are echoes of her descriptions of her childhood in yours. My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but in that time & the small Prairie towns where we lived, nobody really did. I got to take part in most of the extracurricular activities I wanted, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me on the spring break trip to Russia when I was in Grade 12 (it was $1,000, which was a lot of money at that time) — still, only about a dozen of the 500 kids from our school went. I went to university, but it was the closest one to home, & it was paid for with student loans, my summer job savings & the baby bonus money my mom had been saving for us since we were kids. I can remember feeling envious of the few classmates who came back from vacations in exotic spots like Disneyland & Toronto (lol), but they were the exception among us, not the rule. I can imagine that growing up in a city with a much wider range of incomes & circumstances, there would be more to compare yourself against. I know dh sometimes feels it very keenly, being the son of immigrant parents, & working on a trading desk with guys who grew up going to school at UCC & to cottages in Muskoka & ski chalets at Collingwood on the weekends, Europe in the summer and sun vacations every year.

  4. Great post- its amazing how pervasive the skin issue is- I too have faced that issue the pressure even skin lighteners forced upon me at a young age- my son is darker than me and I am so vigilant that no one say anything stupid [which they do and which makes my blood get hot at the mere thought of].

    Your final sentence of this post broke my heart. Powerful stuff.

  5. I grew up in a “comfortable” setting. On one hand, because we traveled a lot, I knew that not everyone lived like I did. But I didn’t really get it until I went off to college and my parents divorced and all the money dried up.

    My husband grew up with a simpler lifestyle, and didn’t have a lot of things I assumed everyone had when I was growing up. He has made the transition to adulthood a lot easier than I did.

    I get a lot of flack from some (wealthy) friends and family that we want to start a family when we don’t have a big fancy house or fancy cars or fancy bank accounts, but I think that there is a balance. I don’t want our children to struggle with self esteem or feelings of uncertainty, but I also want them to have a good work ethic and to appreciate what they have instead of getting handed things in life.

  6. Ah my friend. I’ve been thinking about this post for days. Thinking about it and meaning to circle back and tell you how much I connected to you while reading it; how connected to you I often feel.

    I was going to quote Oprah as a joke — but I really mean it. “I see you.”

    Love,

    Pam

  7. I enjoyed this “grass is greener” because it shows that many of us feel like we don’t fit in at one time or another, or we wonder what would happen if we could change certain pillars that underpin our fate.

    Bravo, Deathstar.

  8. This is powerfully written. My husband has these friends who adopted a little boy – it’s a transracial adoption. They are both white – he’s French, she’s American. Their son was born in the USA – he’s Korean and African American. It’s very obvious from appearances that he is “different” from his parents. And while they are in the middle to higher end socio-economic scale, they don’t particularly recognize his racial and ethnic background. I just can’t help but wonder if he’ll one day have a fantasy about what it would be like to live with people who honored his whole self instead of pretending it doesn’t exist or matter. Don’t get me wrong – they love him to bits, but they truly believe that his skin color is somehow irrelevant…

    • I’m sure they do realize that but don’t really talk about it. I have to say that there is a tendency, especially for the first couple of years, to just be so overjoyed with having a child, that one tends to downplay the circumstances.

      Love is colour blind but life is not. Eventually people start saying stuff to them in front of a kid who will start to understand what they are saying and there will be questions. Do they have diversity in their friendships/social/business lives? In any case, as a friend I would just give him books that reflected a multicultured world.

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