|Posted by Coach Patty Bee on|
1980s... Age 11-ish.
I was the kind of kid that played hide and seek in the projects, running past drug dealers and smoke filled stairwells to find a good hiding spot. But even all that fun couldn't keep me from stopping dead in my tracks when I came by the tall building at the top of the hill. The windows on the first floor were at the perfect height and if the shades were up high enough I could see all the excitement inside.
It was the leasing office. There was just something about seeing someone behind a desk and watching their fingers move gracefully along the typewriter, the way the receptionist held the phone receiver between her shoulder and ear while flipping through important documents. I was captivated by the office employees walking back and forth, they all seemed so busy. But I was especially intrigued with my friend's mom, also our neighbor, who had assumed the position of office manager. A working mom was not the norm where I was from. So to me, it was like if they had crowned a Queen.
My mom was a housewife and my dad hustled the streets most of my young life so I had no idea what a life with working relatives was like. When my friend's mom took on that important position, my imagination of running an office one day went wild. "Office" became my favorite game to play with my sisters and cousins at home.
The fascination I had with that unfamiliar "professional" world only grew stronger. Every 1st of the month I looked forward to that two mile walk to the bank in downtown Hartford where my mom cashed her welfare check. I loved looking at the detailed woodwork and high ceilings inside the corporate building on High Street. My younger sister and I would sneak off to push the black elevator buttons just to watch the round glass numbers light up at the top. But my most favorite part was walking inside the bank and standing in line with my mom between the heavy velvet ropes. I stood on my tippy toes to catch a glimpse of all that was going on behind the tall counters. I became elated with the ching! sound of the cash drawer, the way the teller stamped the slip, the way she moved bills through her hands so quickly, and the intensity of my mom's pen when she added the accent to the 'u' in her Bermúdez signature.
Before we left, my mom would sneak a small stack of deposit and withdraw slips into her purse so that I could play banker at home. She even bought me an old calculator from the Salvation Army Thrift Store after watching me draw a numbers pad on a piece of cardboard at home. These were some of the best gifts ever!!
Considering where and how I grew up, I have to say that I was blessed to have not fallen prey to what for many became their destiny. That strong curiosity kept me glancing over to that outside world. It was that desire to do something different with my life that somehow shielded me from the temptations and dangers that surrounded me. God blessed me with parents that in the midst of substandard choices and brokenness, they always found ways to keep my little sisters and I as distracted as possible.
My heart aches for the children in my old neighborhood that are living there today. I want to one day go through those drug and smoke infested stairwells where children like me still play and dream! I want to help them find their spark amongst the ashes.
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