What do you do when the only thing that you know is wrong?
It’s so odd seeing families around me; acting as if they truly love each other even though they were forced together by blood and obligation. It’s so weird to see people doing things for their parents just because they’re their parents. I never really had that sense of obligation towards my main caretaker: my mother.
Growing up, I always lived in housing projects. Ghettos. We’d always be living paycheck to paycheck (meaning welfare check to baby bonus), but it’s not like that mattered because my mother had somehow managed to register us at every single food bank in the city. She’d always have a case of the strongest beer by the front door, a talk show on our television, and an assortment of tobacco on the living room table. This is how it was; this is the life I knew.
We never got anything like chocolate milk or cookies because we couldn’t afford it and if we did get cookies, they were from the food bank. We grew up on toast and ketchup; we would eat eggs with almost every meal because they were cheap. We also were those kids that you’ve heard about who would eat mustard and/or ketchup sandwiches. We had no “brand loyalty” because we shopped with the sales.
I’ve always shopped in thrift stores and I didn’t actually ever really go shopping for myself until I was 21. Spending anything over $40 was unheard of when I was a child.
As children, we’d steal things from our parents and the parents of our friends for entertainment. I remember the first time I’d ever smoked a cigarette, I was around 6 years old. One of my native friends who lived in the same ghetto as me had taken one from her mother and decided to share it with me. It was terrible, but it was how we spent the time.
When living in the ghetto, there is one other crucial thing that you need: Protection. My mother got that for us by supplying the heads of the gangs with prescription medications that she was getting for her spinal injury. Growing up, we were protected by one of the largest gangs in the area. Most of the members knew us by sight, if not by name, and they would come to our aid should anything happen.
I remember having a Big Sister from the Big Sisters of London Foundation because my mother was disabled (that’s a story for another time) and because we were charity cases. We were sent to the Tim Hortons Camps (my older sister and I) because of that very fact: we were served up as charity cases.
In fact, we even had a case worker named Silvia. It’s funny that I’d remember that now. I remember my mother coming up to me and giving me a pep talk:
“Remember Celeste, we need to really make ourselves look really poor or else they won’t take you to that camp. Look sad and don’t tell them about me sending money to your Aunt Lanny.”
My mother: the con-artist. She certainly started us young. She taught my sisters and I to forge her signature on all of our school work because she didn’t want to see it. She was too busy with her talk shows.
The family that I grew up in consisted of my con-artist mother, my drug-addled dropout older sister, my naive little sister, and me. Growing up, I had no obligation to my mother or my older sister; they were just people that I was forced to live with until I could get away from them. That’s all that family really is: forced obligation.
You may already know that I’m engaged to be married to the love of my life, Oliver. You may think that I’m being a hypocrite when I say this: I can’t wait to start a family of our own. There are so many differences in how I’d raise my children: how I’d provide stability for them, and how I’d gladly help them be the best they can be. The other difference is that my children will have two parents who love each other. I’ve chosen Oliver as my husband; there is no forced obligation here. He chose me as well and I firmly believe that we can create a loving home for us and any children we may have.