"Surely a 11 year old girl is too young to act this way (survival and violence)." She paused, "My 12 year old is still into ponies." She gave me the ‘respond!’ look.
I was thinking, "What kind of FREAK childhood…Ponies? What did I want at 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13? FOOD. FOOD. Shelter. FOOD." I said something banal about child soldier and slums on trash heaps.
It was a radio interview on Zed and has bothered me since. I understood that Babel doesn’t end when you both speak English..
Before I went to school, the paper I drew and wrote on were company memos, notes, invoices scavenged from industrial garbage. We grew as much of the food in our yard as we could. For the rest there was oatmeal.
It wasn’t bad. It just was. When I was a teen, my father told people that we weren’t poor. Most of the time we had no vehicle, lived in a rural area and rummaged from garbage. I had to move away before I experienced buying clothes from a store. I told him what I remembered and asked, "What is poor then?"
"When you have nothing."
Clothes from charities, no meat, never full. Bliss was a pinch of cinnamon on the oatmeal.
The life I lived is what I assumed all life was like. Having no TV helped that belief. It was neither bad nor good, it simply was.
I never envied what I did not know existed. And I certainly cannot understand this child view of plenty as an adult. Perhaps in part I never grew up, perhaps in part I grew up quickly because it was the best choice. I cannot think of an age where I did not already have a spot in mind in case I needed to sleep outside. At nine I started storing things, making secret nests, burying money.
As I got older, we got a car. Sometimes the family slept in it.
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