Friday, January 30, 2015

Feature Friday: 18 Til 40

Each Friday we will feature a post from another Mommy Blog. This week is my dear friend Robin. She is an amazing mother and has an incredible story to tell.

Chapter 1

I'm going to be honest.  I am not a writer and have no idea how to break up my life into 18 chapters.  Maybe I will go over, maybe I will run out of things to say.  I will venture to guess that it will NOT be the latter.  I have so many memories.  Some good, some bad, some worse.   All of them have made me who I am today.


Today, that's an interesting thing to think about.  Not in the literal sense, but in the grand scheme of things.  Where I am TODAY is nothing short of a miracle.  My beginnings are so far removed from my present, that I have a truly hard time reconciling the two.  Where did one end and the new one begin.  I could answer that in so many ways, depending on the life event I conjur up.  Before my Mom died and after has always felt like a drastic "new beginning".  Another "new beginning", when Dominick was born and I became a Mommy.  Again, when Eddie is born and I became a "special needs" Mommy and Down syndrome advocate.  But, all those things still seem somewhat "normal".  A far cry from my childhood in Woodhaven, Queens.  Sometimes when I have a memories of those times it feels like it happened to someone else.  I can't even believe that I had been through all the things I have been through.  Like it's some kind of movie that I kind of, sort of remember....but, wait, how did that movie begin? I can't remember! How did it end? Man, I really need to watch that movie again!  Hopefully writing it down will help me to fill in the gaps, uncover some truths and finally piece together this great big puzzle: HOW DID I GET HERE?! How did I ever get so incredibly lucky to get HERE!? In a 3,000 square foot house, in AZ, with an amazing husband and kids. Granite countertops, hardwood floors, a pool in the backyard, a master bathroom with a closet the size of my first apartment.  Separate bedrooms for my boys.  All things that seem so absurdly normal to me now.

Almost anyone reading this will most likely know all that good stuff, the stuff of TODAY.  But it's the prequel that I am looking to unearth.  So, I thank you in advance for listening to the ramblings of a crazy woman.  I will try to somehow make sense of this, and put it in a timeline that is cohesive.  I can't make any promises tho.  Like I warned you, I am not a writer.

The Beginning

Let's set the stage.  The first place I have any memory of living is in Woodhaven, Queens.  a 6 story, 6 building apartment complex.  It had two archway entrances, one led to a small street and across that street was my elementary school.   There was a huge courtyard in the middle, and the other archway led to an alley leading to Jamaica Avenue.  I have so many memories of that courtyard.  It was a safe place for all the children in the complex to play.  There were trees throughout, a cement maze like walkway and a huge (non working) fountain in the middle.  There was a tremendous tree in one corner that had roots coming up through the dirt.  I remember playing house with my friends next to that tree every day.  Each divided section that the roots created was a "room".  We would even sweep the dirt in each room.  I wonder where I got such pride, considering the conditions of our apartment.  There were so many families in the apartment complex, and never a shortage of playmates.  The families in the apartments were all middle class families, with working parents.  I am sure some of them struggled.  But I am also pretty sure none of them struggled as much as we did.  The truth is, we didn't belong there, not really.  My Mom never worked for as long as I can remember.  I know she had a few jobs before I was born, but none that I have memory of.  My dad didn't have a job, aside from driving a cab occasionally.  Even when he did, he and my mom would take the money he collected from his passengers and use it for drugs before he was due to hand it in to the dispatcher.  I can remember my dad scrambling and freaking out every evening, knowing he had to answer to his boss, but had no money to turn in.  I know that he would go to my grandparents house and beg for money to turn into his boss or risk getting fired.  It is so strange to me now, reliving these moments as a mother and having this all new perspective.  I cannot imagine the position that put my grandparents in.  By this point, they and my Aunt, my dad's sister, were already paying our rent EVERY month, just so we wouldn't be homeless.  And here are my parents taking such blatant advantage of that, and on top of it groveling for money daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.  ALWAYS.  I remember him taking me with him to pick up customers.  He would coach me on what to say and tell me to make sure I smiled because that would mean a bigger tip.  I will never forget that. He would tell me I was irresistably cute and noone could say no to my sweet face.  What little girl wouldn't want to hear that? The fact that he was using me to make more money to buy more drugs, well that's pretty unforgetable too.  The cab driver gig didn't last, he would hop from one company to another until they caught on to him and the jig would be up.  My mom, well, who knows what she did all day.  I've been told that in the "early days" of thier marriage and the beginning of thier addictions, that she was a super neat freak.  Cleaning up after you, taking cups out of your hand before you were done, just to clean them.  That seems so foreign to me.  As far back as I can remember there wasn't even a working sink to wash that cup IN! Or, if it were working, it were clogged, filled with dirty dishes, water and cigarette butts.  On a bad day, my mom would be passed out in it.  I remember coming home from school to find my mom passed out either in the sink or on the floor.  It would seem that she had the intentions of cleaning, but nodded off before she got started.  That's not how everyone lived in our apartment complex tho, which only made us stick out that much more.  When I would go to friends apartments I would always feel the sense of comfort, cleanliness and family.  Our apartment, well, it had it's moments.  There were days when it got straighten up, but, those were few and far between.  The everyday living consisted of a kitchen with an unworking stove because we never paid the gas bill.  A usually non working sink.  A refrigerator that was home to a few ketchup packets and, on a good day, a block of cheese from the church.  The rubber sides on the doorframe of the refrigerator were imbedded with dead cockroaches and cockroach eggs.  Appetizing, huh? The cabinets in the kitchen were OFF LIMITS.  There were entire colonies of cockroaches living in them.  We went YEARS AND YEARS without opening our kitchen cabinets.  I remember opening one once, I don't remember how old I was, or what made me do it,....but, I will never forget it.  I think you can use your imagination.  The entire apartment was infested with cockroaches.  If you moved anything, at least 10 cockroaches would scutter from under it.  If you left a cup sitting out for 2 minutes, there would be 5 cockroaches drowning in it.  To this day, I still look in my glass before taking a drink, out of fear of a swimmer.  You get the picture, they were everywhere....IN the TV, under every piece of furniture, under the beds.  My bedroom consisted of an entire floor full of dirty clothes.  Completely covered.  I don't remember doing laundry EVER until I got my first job at age 16, where I would use my pay to go to the laundromat.  When I was a little girl I would have to scamper through those clothes to find something to wear to school.  They were all dirty, smelly and stained. When I would lift something up to examine how dirty it was, 5 bugs would crawl out.  I would stand in the middle of the room as a little girl, completely paralyzed and overwhelmed, and that feeling would stick with me long into adult hood.  I would wake up for work when I had my own apartment, as an adult, and have full on panic attacks about "what to wear".  Even now, writing about it my heart starts beating faster and I start to feel the panic set in.  It wasn't about the clothes so much, but about the overall living conditions, the feeling of being buried alive.  It would take me years to finally "get over" those feelings.   To this day, I still get those panic attacks.  I guess in a lot of ways, I will always be that little girl, standing alone in the middle of a cockroach infested room full of dirty clothes wondering what I will wear and what I will eat that day.

That seems like a good place to pause.  It's 2 am and I am sure I will be having some interesting dreams tonight.   Thank you for sticking around. And remember:

There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be

Read the rest of her story at