Warning: Contains content not suitable for all ages or readers.
I was born in 1981, to a Mexican father and an Italian mother, in Hollister, CA. They met in Utah while on some sort of Job Corps assignment, before moving into a small trailer in California when I was born. My earliest memory though, is of a small one bedroom home, with an even smaller yard, that somehow fit rabbits, chickens, and a goat. I also remember my father cutting off the head of a chicken for dinner one night, and that chicken kept running around, without a head, for what seemed like forever…I never helped him with dinner again. Other brief memories include a man trying to break into the home, making my mom hide in the bedroom with my middle sister and I until the cops came…being bitten in the face by a doberman pinscher…and setting a fire along the highway across the street.
We moved to Philadelphia, PA when I was 4 years old. The story on why is fuzzy, but my father said he went because he thought there would be work, and there wasn’t. We lived in a small one bedroom apartment in Northeast Philly, where I watched a lot of t.v., and learned how to make fried Cheerios. My father left shortly after moving there, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t around for my first day of school. I made friends with a girl named Snow in kindergarten, and she called me Mo-Becca, because for whatever reason, she couldn’t pronounce Rebeca. My name has one C because it’s the Spanish spelling, but I think that’s what made me introduce myself as Becky to everyone after that.
We moved again by the time I started first grade, and my mom somehow got me into a catholic school a few blocks from our one bedroom apartment in the Frankford section. I highly doubt she was paying for it, since she was on welfare already, and going to whatever program the social worker had in place, not a job. This time frame is fuzzy for me as well. I have random recollections of being brought into bars, getting really good at shuffle board, different men coming to the apartment, and being sent to the corner store with paper food stamps to buy popsicles. See, if you bought something for less than a food stamp dollar, then the store would have no option but to give you regular change back. Regular change adds up…and cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs can be bought with change. But we didn’t mind having the popsicles for dinner, or sometimes chips and cookies, because it beat the concoctions my mom would come up with for dinner most nights.
My sister and I were probably some of the poorest kids in the neighborhood, and while my grandmother and aunt would buy us new clothes, we never got to wear them because my mom never did laundry. There would just be piles and piles of laundry, with her randomly pulling out things to wash, so it was never matching, or hardly ever fit. Now thinking back on it, I was probably grabbing my little sisters clothes to wear, and vice versa. She didn’t even wash my favorite blanket when I blooded it from a split head that she inflicted. It just got thrown out. But we still had it better than the kid at the end of the block. I can’t remember his name any more, but he was even skinnier…and dirtier, and always had the biggest bruises…there was even one time my mom brought him in from sleeping in our backyard…I really wish I could remember his name.
At some point after I turned 8, we moved to West Philly, but my mom wanted me to finish the 4th grade at the catholic school. I was taking the El by myself from Bridge and Pratt to Spring Garden, then walking to our efficiency that was on the 3rd floor of a run down home, on an even more run down street. I’m not sure what happened to that plan, but I started going to a neighborhood baby sitter near the catholic school until my mom could get me. That’s where the babysitter’s husband was a bit too friendly. A lot went down, and to this day I do not like things being placed in front of doors, or being blocked from an exit. And honestly, I think the court hearings and therapy sessions after were just as damaging.
My mom pulled me from the catholic school and enrolled me in the one by home. We lived across the street from a crack house, and I had to walk past it every day to get to “school”…a place that hardly ever turned on the lights, or had text books for us to use during class…it was just somewhere for the neighborhood kids to go and get free meals. I remember I made friends with a little kid named Larry, I think he was in a lower grade, and another kid my age, De-i-o. No idea how he spelled it, but that was how we said it. Those two made things bearable. Then one day Larry didn’t meet us…and he didn’t meet us for a few days after that. Found out a crackhead from across the street had grabbed him, did some crazy things to him, and he was going to be out of school for a while…I missed having him around.
I had my monsters inside my own house though. Between my mom bringing home the heroin addict that would occasionally be too friendly, and sleeping on a mattress on the efficiency kitchen floor, I just wanted a different life. My mom then thought it was a good time to bring a third kid into the mess, so while she was pregnant, the owners of the building decided I could hang out with them a bit more downstairs, complete with nudity and too friendly hangouts…mostly the woman, which was new to me. Let me also paint the picture of walls crumbling in certain areas, wooden floors that were notorious for giving the biggest splinters, and the most overpowering smell of dogs, and their feces, known to man.
I still remember the day my mom was contacted by DHS. She threw her heavy book bag at me when she came in the door, and wanted to know who I was talking to about home. I had no idea what she was talking about, but a few days later some lady came to talk to her, my middle sister, and me. Next thing I knew my grandmother said my middle sister and I could come live with her, and I thought I was going to burst with happiness. I loved my grandmother more than anyone in the world at the time. She was the only person in my life who loved me unconditionally…maybe who ever even loved me at all. But, it wasn’t time for a happy ending in my story. It just started a new chapter.