I asked the 7 year old living beneath me why she wasn’t in school today. This was her answer. “Oh…today we were tired, so we slept in and momma came over to babysit.” Only in the South will a mom become the babysitter. It is a land of grandmothers raising babies…and it isn’t pretty.
Now that we’ve been living in the South for over two months, I feel I can make a decent judgment about my life here. First of all, the racial tensions here are very odd. After growing up in the West and then living for the past 9 years in Vermont, being “racist” or having racists thoughts are the furthest thing from my mind. Sure, the Coloradans are afraid that Mexico will invade once and for all, but that’s a whole other story. Here, black and white people have an ongoing rift, which makes little to no sense to me. The odd thing is that sometimes there is no issue at all. The color lines are not a boundary and people simply step right over them to engage in conversation. Other times, the line is not defined and it’s as though I’m not even in the room. So odd.
Let me begin this next little diatribe with the fact that I lived in what can only be referred to as the ghetto for a short time after my parent’s divorce. My father bought a little house on Las Animas in Colorado Springs. In the years he lived there, a drive by shooting happened right in front of the house, the house across the street burned down, and the crack house two doors down was infiltrated by cops where they killed the pit bull in the front yard before entering and arresting the people inside. Awesome? Not so much. Then there was the neighborhood itself minus the crime. The homes were dilapidated, young kids roamed free without any supervision, dogs got off chains or ropes and wandered aimlessly, etc. It was a thing of beauty. I escaped that pitiful world and with a few minor setbacks (Burlington Housing Authority gig — story for another time), I have avoided the impoverished and neglectful with complete happiness.
So… here we are. Georgia. We live in a nice apartment complex. I miss my house in Vermont more than anyone will ever know, but this place is alright. It’s brand new, so any misdeeds performed by the tenants haven’t really shown up. Until now. My immediate downstairs neighbor is a white woman who lives with her husband and their grown son. I’m not sure how old he is, but he is too old to be living with mommy and daddy. She has four granddaughters that range in age from 3 to 10, and they’re wicked. Every time I take my lovely daughter outside to play on the playground, the little girls are drawn to her like moths to a flame. “Elsa!” they holler. Elsa looks at me in terror. I can read her mind. Oh God. They’re going to touch me. Two minutes into our playtime, I am already saying things like “Okay, she can walk by herself,” or “She doesn’t need to be picked up. She’s not a baby,” or my favorite “Don’t push her.” Ugh. Two minutes after that, they want to pick her up and put her in the swing. I want to tell them to back the fuck off! But they’re kids. I have to remind myself that they’re behavior isn’t their fault. No one. Simply no one, supervises them. Ever. Their mother drops them off for days or weeks at a time. As far as I can tell, she works at the Circle K, had four kids with her black boyfriend and now lives somewhere else. But the kids stay with grandma downstairs.
I like to think that I’m this really nice person who just wants to enjoy some quiet time outside with her daughter, but really I think that these little bastards turn me into the nastiest person ever. They ask if they can go in my house all the time. They ask my neighbor if they can get something to drink at her house. Then yesterday, two new kids showed up to the park. They were 6 going on 21. The little girl had a mouth on her that wouldn’t quit. I finally picked up my precious tot and walked her home. She was sad to leave, but I just didn’t need to have her hear things like, “Give me a chicken sandwich mama! What? You gonna’ whup me?”
I had breakfast with my husband’s friend’s family the other day and they were telling me all about their plan for the apocalypse. I laughed, and after a lengthy conversation about their plan he asked where I had been living––as if I’ve never seen the underbelly of society before. You know? At first, all I could think of was my time in Vermont, which is so pretty and crime free that one forgets that bad things happen, but the last couple of days I have shot back to my youth in Colorado and appreciate how far we’ve come. I’ve heard worse stories here. Someone told me that they saw a kid take a shit on the playground at their building. Ah. Things are looking up!