I Am All That is Left of a Bizarre Childhood

These are on my refrigerator

They belong there.

Hoo boy; do they.


Do you ever feel like you





I do.

Everyday in someway or another.

Growing up with eccentric alcoholic parents in a dangerous neighborhood

during a turbulent time makes for a weird childhood.

Being a weird child made it worse.

“You march to your own drummer. Keep going.”

My dad would say.


“You are just like your father.”

My mother would say.



Nowadays, being a Geek or a Nerd is all cool

and if you are not;

you are out of touch with the zeitgeist.

Well, lets just say,

I was WAY ahead of my time.

oh yeah.


I think a lot of us who grew up in dysfunctional homes grow up feeling different. We are different. Our experience of the world was not predictable and sometimes, not safe. Growing up in chaos, with parents who marched to their own brass bands, shaped me. I have referred to this in my Blog as “Going my Own Way”.

I grew up living outside the mainstream. We were so far out of the mainstream, I did not even know one existed. I knew that I was Smart and I knew that being Smart was Bad. I knew that I was not conforming and I did not care. I was aware that I was white and most everyone else was not. I, again, did not care.

My father raised us to Go With the Flow; To Be Ourselves.

I took that to heart. I ran with it.

Turns out I still am.

Going your Own Way is lonely.

There is always that sense of being not quite like the others. I can be with my friends and enjoy hours together and still feel a bit the imposter. I am there, eating lunch, talking about the kids and the future and sometimes politics and just feel…Odd. The hair on the back of my neck goes up when anyone uses the term “Trailer Trash”.

 I feel that old sense of Not Quite Belonging.

I know that this is familiar turf for a lot of us. Feeling the Imposter.  Well, we are.

I will carry my past, the whole of it, with me forever. I have been poor, I have been odd, I have been afraid and I have seen way too much to turn my back on it. I grew up in a culture not my own and oddly, find I do not identify with white middle class culture at all; I identify with Latino culture far more easily.

I identify with the working poor far more than I do the world I live in today.

The house I live in today, my Home,  was in a neighborhood very similar to the one I grew up in.

My son grew up with kids all over the block running wild and not a one spoke English.

 My neighborhood used to shut down at dusk. No one walked at night.

My neighborhood is changing. And I do not like it one bit.

I was coming home last night, driving into my neighborhood, taking the long way around to avoid the new hip trendy restaurants which have write ups in the New York Times. I went the LONG way around to avoid seeing the change and was sad to find that the LONG way around has been gentrified  too.

I found my self thinking, “Where the Fuck did all these white people come from?”

Damn. There goes the neighborhood, I thought to myself.

White people everywhere.  Rich White people Lined the sidewalks waiting to get into the restaurants.

The panaderias have been gone for a few years. The Mexican video place is gone. The local market is gone. The only taquerias left are those whose owners own the building and even those now sell “Premium Tequila”  and  fancy beer.

“Where the Fuck did all these white people come from?”

Yep. I thought that and I still do.

I do not belong here in this  neighborhood rife with million dollar lofts and LEED certified homes. I do not belong anywhere near a place that serves a $15 drink and thrives.  I miss the low riders and the raucous parties. I miss the smell of a whole hog being cooked in a backyard pit. I miss hearing Spanish being spoken. I even miss the Mariachi music that was ubiquitous in my childhood and in my sons.

I HATE mariachi music. And I miss it.

I even miss staring down the young North Side Mafia Gang Bangers.

They stayed off our block; we all made sure of that

There I am: the white chick driving home from a lecture at a local university by Salman Kahn,

founder of the Kahn Academy,


“What the FUCK is up with all these white people?”

See? I don’t fit anywhere.

Where is there room for me?

I don’t feel 100% me anywhere.

I will not change.

I will continue to Go My Own Way and I will continue to ‘fit in’ where ever it is that I am.

I guess we are like chameleons in a way aren’t we? We can squeeze in here and there.

Seems to me the key is finding ONE place that feels 100%. For me it was my neighborhood, drug houses and all.

For me, it was a fit. It felt like Home regardless of the fact that home was kind of fucked.


” I am all that is left of a Bizarre childhood”


Damn Straight and you know what? I will take it. I will happily carry all of it.

That Bizarre childhood was my petri dish. I am some weird amalgam of all of it.

I won’t pretend that what happened did not happen.

I won’t pretend that I understand ‘normal’ people and I will be aware that

“The only Normal People are the ones you don’t know well”

So, “white people are moving in and messing up my home”.

What am I going to do with that?


I am going to embrace that this is how I see my world.

It just is.

I am going to have to Go My Own Way on this one.


I am going to put a car up on blocks in the front yard.

I will call it


Oh Yeah.

I hear white people dig ART.


Feliz Cino De Mayo!

Peace, Jen


Welcome to my world:

About Khan Academy  * THIS is amazing stuff for ANY Geek!


~ by Step On a Crack on May 5, 2012.

27 Responses to “I Am All That is Left of a Bizarre Childhood”

  1. Wow –
    I think a lot of us who grew up in dysfunctional homes grow up feeling different. We are different. Our experience of the world was not predictable and sometimes, not safe. Growing up in chaos, with parents who marched to their own brass bands, shaped me.

    You put into words my experience too.


    • THANK YOU! I thought this would resonate. I Hoped it would.

      I mean: I wish that none of us grew up in chaos but we did. I think we need to honor how it has impacted the way we see the world. It inofmrs EVERYTHING and we can’t do a whole lot to change some of the basic pieces of this.

      Thank you for being here. Jen


  2. Here here my sister! Your truth you speak resonates deep, deep in my soul. I walk in the costume of the white chick. Rarely does anyone notice I’m in disguise. Only one thing…. Brass drum sounds to shiny, valuable, posh. More a salvaged steel from the neighbors yard drum. Sounds good, but filled with dirty character.


    • ART!

      A.) I adore you

      B.) so true: not brass band; clanging garbage can lids is more like it.

      Yep. We walk around in disguise all the time. Juan and I call it “assimilation” We are very good assimilators. I DO get tired of the disguise and that is why TRIBE and FAMILY is SO important.

      I LOVE YOU! Kiss the BEE for me!

      XO JEN


  3. Jen– I am trailer trash and always was, except during the summers when we lived in a tent, and then I was a hobo. This is a wonderful post about the ‘impostor’ in all of us. I’m guessing many will not identify with the details, but will share the spirit of being on the outside looking in and not wanting to change a thing, really. You survived. You’re strong. You’re wounded, yes, but healing and the greatest thing of all, is that you’re not in denial! How did you do that? I would guess that’s where the ‘smart’ comes in.

    I can send you an old wringer washer. Call it a planter! Can we detour a railroad track?


    • Heidi! I am laughing OUT LOUD! YES a wringer washer and the TRACKS Perfect! I will make sure my new neighbors know which side of the tracks I am on.. OH you are Too funny!

      My father in law used to say he was nothing but a ‘smart hill billy’ Thats us.

      The not being in denial part is part therapy, part Program and part Smart.

      How about you? You are not denying your Trailer Trash self either. How did you do it?

      Maybe that is going to be my “tramp Stamp” (another term I despise) a tattoo that just calls it out: trailer trash.

      I hope a lot of people will relate to the imposter stuff. We all had different walks BUT the outcome is often similar.

      I am still SO happy about the idea of tracks in my yard….

      THEY just passed an ordinance making it ILLEGAL to have a couch on your porch! That was when I knew we were heading to hell in a handbasket.

      What has this world come too? A bodies gotta have a place to lay on down? am I right?

      XO Jen


  4. Honey you GOTS TO KNOW this is about YOU and mel. I am so, so, so much like you, and i am so uncomfortable in so many ways … all i can say is thank God i was given a set of DRUMS to follow my own path. AND, i am so glad our Drumming Paths Crossed. I LOVE YOU, Jen
    XO MEL


  5. Hi love, i’m sorry to be talking about me on your post. I know your pain. Your pain. I know the fear you had as a child and horrors with your mom. I know your dad was the mixed bag. And it has made you feel like the oddball in any and all situations in some degree or another. That must suck. I can say, i do understand AND FOR THAT, THANK you for posting this truthful and vulnerable post. You are brave, and you’re super cool HAHAHA … vroom vroom. LOVE YOU mel


    • Hey Doll.

      The whole point of this post is to point out and CALL OUT to all of us who ‘assimilate’ or who can relate to the Imposter.

      That’s us. A whole LOT of us!

      beep beep….



  6. Seems we are both thinking about fitting in today, my friend.
    I wrote about it for TMG and the I was writing about how I live in a man’s world for Fork, but it dissipated. : /
    Funny when that happens that way, isn’t it?
    Your story isn’t funny. Thank you, though ,for sharing it.
    Except for the car on blocks! That made me laugh right out loud! 😉
    The other parts, not so much.
    And you’re right, honey, the only normal people are the ones you don’t know so well.
    love and great grace to you,


    • Debbie,

      Yep. I always tell my son “great minds think alike”

      his response, “actually they don’t mom.”

      it is odd how there is a synchronicity to the words that flow here. I LOVE that.

      OK I thought the whole darn thing was kind of funny. Darn. Maybe it is black humor that I was going for.

      My nephew suggested we just put a couch on the porch and paint the word “ART” on it. there we go!

      Yep. We are all goofy in our own ways. If you give people just a little room they will talk and show who they are: not like you thought. do not judge a book: true. Oh oh. I AM so judging all the new people in the neighborhood. OH NO! does this mean I need to LOOK at that? (please say no…)

      Much Love to you my Dear Friend!



  7. My family was not dysfunctional in the accepted sense. But my dad passed away when I was three and mother remarried. My step-father and I were not close and our relationship was tense at best.

    I looked after myself and handled the street gangs my own way. Perhaps because of that, I grew up faster than most kids my age.


    • Eric! Hello there!

      I think that dysfunction comes in all stripes. I can NOT imagine losing a parent so young. I know that that impacted my mothers life DEEPLY! Having to deal with a step-father and having your male role model relationship be ‘tense at best’ is the makings of dysfunction.

      Handling street gangs: another level of dysfunction Hell. Especially for a young man. Gangs do force an early maturity if they do not force a life of crime.

      Growing up fast is dysfunctional. Dealing with the loss of a parent and dealing with a new parent; very very hard. Gangs: been there done that and man, they can be terrifying. They are dangerous. I am so sorry you have had to deal with this stuff. I deeply admire the way you live and that you did not fall into an abyss and lose your way. That is a miracle.

      I had hoped that this post would be universal: Our past haunts us. There are SO many of us walking with a heavy past that informs our present. We all have different stories but I think it often comes down to the same thing: feeling different; being lonely.

      Were you always in your part of the world?

      Thank you for being here Eric, I appreciate your presence very much.

      Peace, Jen


  8. My girlfriends and I were talking about this whole dysfunctional childhoods thing recently. We’ve all grown up to be writers, and think that our experiences of ‘different’ childhoods that left us somehow on the outside has made us deep thinkers and skilled observers of life – something none of us would trade for anything, despite the total suckfulness of the said childhood experience.

    This is a great from-the-heart post, Jen and it just shines with honesty and wisdom. Bravo! Thanks for sharing.


    • Thank you very much for stopping by! I have to say first that I LOVE the name of your blog! I will head over to your neck of the woods soon.

      YOU nailed it. It is so funny how most of my TRIBE is from crazy making homes and that those crazy making homes made us all more observant, more tolerant and very thoughtful. Most of my Tribe members are artists of one kind or another and I think there is something to our childhoods that brings that out in us. I would not trade the Gain; the “going my own way” aspects of my life for anything either.

      so what ehh? ‘suckfulness’ made us who we are. There is something to honor in that.

      thank you for your very kind words; you made me smile and I am not an easy smiler; another hold over from the ‘suckfulness’ (I love that term)

      Peace, Jen


  9. This is great writing. I think everyone grows up in a dysfunctional family/home, it’s just to what degree the dysfunction occurs! Certainly your experiences are captured to the ***th degree, while others who live in a world denial never realize how important and gratifying it can be to understand your past. That’s what makes us who we are. Sometimes the harder the road traveled the healthier the individual. I see that in you.


  10. i didn’t even grow up in a dysfunctional home and i still feel like i don’t belong. The only place where i really feel at home outside of home is in the AA rooms!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: