This is the house that I spent the first few years of my life in. My father and grandfather built the garage.
This is the house my parents built. It will always be home. Ghost in the graveyard, underage drinking parties on the back patio. Basketball on the driveway. We planted the lawn from seed. We were the first house facing the street on this side of the block.
I also lived in Florida for a little over a year but I have no photographs of where I lived. I lived in a trailer park off of the first exit into the state on I-95.
I did not live in this house but, this is where my grandparents house once stood. After my grandmother passed away we moved in with my grandfather. After grandpa passed away the house was torn down and this house was built. The big tree in front was planted by my mother when she was in elementary school. That is the sidewalk where I first learned to ride a bike.
We live in a townhouse now. It is about half the size of any house we have lived in. It was interesting to downsize- all of the sudden you have too much stuff. I think we must have spent the first four years either throwing stuff away or donating it. We have the windows and door to the right of the tree. Kinda nice to have an inside unit.
"That middle-class students will go to college, strive for professional jobs, and live in typical, middle-class neighborhoods are matters that are clearly assumed by both the general population as well as by social researchers who are for the most part middle-class themselves."
Middle-Class Social Reproduction
As a young child my family was a working class family. My father was a mechanic and my mother stayed at home and raised the kids; three of us. Through his experience and connections my father was able to move into management and get a bigger salary. During the mid 1990's we enjoyed a typical suburban middle-class life because of what my father did for a living. As a middle-class family we would go on vacations every summer, we had toys, life was good. After dad lost his job and couldn't find another one, he got sick and was gone in less than 3 years. Mom had to go back to work and we had to down-size. There are a lot of 'could'a, would'a, should'a' moments but things went the way they went and it's useless to dwell on what might have been.
We are working-class and proud of it. As a working-class man I have done my best and gone into a great deal of debt to strive for college; completing seven, soon to be nine years of college. I am still striving for the professional job and the white picket fence, 2.4 kids.... maybe not in a middle class neighborhood, but.... One day I might find it and I might be able to provide a life like I had for my own family. Until then...
I come from a strong family. A family run by the women and backed up by the men. My grandmother ran the show and was the glue that held the extended family together. When she passed away the family never fully recovered. I was lucky to experience the kind of family that a strong relationship produces. In my later experiences I see that our family was an anomaly; nobody in our family ever got divorced. My parents actually loved each other and I know that it was the same for all of my aunts and uncles as well. There is no denying that there were problems, disagreements and disappointments... we had plenty of ghosts in the closet like any other family. But, no matter what, we were all kept in line and put on the right path by strong female leadership that was backed by a strong male presence.
I am not saying that this is what you must have in order to become a whole person. The definition of "family" can mean many things all of which can work if the members put forth an honest effort to make it work. This is where I came from, my experience.
John- "I thought I was having psychotic experiences. We were walking down the street... and there is a house down there with sunflowers out front; there is a girl out front playing with her dog or something.... the little girl goes running up to the front of the house, yells in the front door, 'Daddy, Daddy the Jews are coming down the street!'"
Me- "But, you're not Jewish, are you?"
John- "No, well, we have a Mezuzah on the front door that a friend of ours gave us... A couple weeks later I am pulling out of the Marathon station [and the preachers kid, who lives down the street], he's walking by the meat market and he looks at me and goes, 'Hey Jew!'."
Me- "How do people even know [the Mezuzah is] there?"
John- "All this started after we hosted the block party, and people went in to use the bathroom."
Me-"Did anyone ask you what it was for?"
John-"No, the only people that have asked are friends that we have known before we moved here."
I interviewed John in his home in Wheaton. If you are not familiar with Wheaton, it is located in the western suburbs of Chicago. Wheaton is the home of Wheaton College (an evangelical college that only recently allowed it's students to have a dance) and more churches per square mile than any other town in the country. It has been the seat of the Republican party in Illinois for years and is a very conservative community.
After hearing about John's experiences I came across this clip of Louie C.K. on Conan and found it to be an appropriate addition to the conversation. I was amazed by what these children had said to John and began to wonder how a child learns to speak that way to or about an adult or even another person. You don't look at a child and expect bigotry; in my mind bigotry can only be indoctrinated by an adult. While the clip of Louie C.K. is humorous it is also frightening that this kind of racial intolerance is still around. There is no doubt that the parallels are there and it didn't feel like too much of a stretch to put the two vignettes together.