If you ask me what my fondest memories are I’m always going to think back to the ones from my childhood. There were some bad times, of course. What kid doesn’t pack a bag and threaten to run away from home at least once? I remember the first time that my 6 or 7-year-old self declared that I was leaving due to the injustices of my home. My mother sarcastically encouraged me to go and assisted me by opening the front door. She waited for me to walk out but as I stared outside I saw what looked like a scene out of the movie Jumanji. I swear, I remember seeing a flying dinosaur swoop down past my face and the distance from the front door to the sidewalk looked like it was miles apart. Shooken with fear but still wanting to keep my pride, I backed down and told her that I would leave and go on my journey another day. I sure told her.
In spite of my attempts at moving out at an early age, the days growing up as a kid were some of the best days of my life. Nothing beat riding my bike up and down Renfrew Avenue until one of my parents yelled for me to come inside. Nothing beat spending the entire weekend running behind my older cousins on Scammel Avenue. Nothing beat my brother, even 9 years older than me, letting me tag along with him to the mall, to cookouts, to wherever. Nothing beat those moments, no matter how simple they were.
When I found out that I was going to be a mom, a lot of those moments resurfaced. I caught myself getting emotional thinking about the innocence that I once attained. I missed it and although I could never get that innocence back, I wanted to relive it. I got the idea to visit the places that once housed that innocence. The same innocence and joy that my kid would eventually feel. So, I got cute. I grabbed my bestie, Dahlia, she grabbed her camera and we went to capture some new moments at the places that gave me some of my best. I touched base with the house that I grew up in, “the green store” and the bus stop I waited out at every morning during my middle school years.
The green store was a staple for the residents in the part of Trenton that I grew up in. West. Almost everyday after school I was there. It was only a few blocks from my house and a block away from my school. It wasn’t just me though. My mom always loved a good sandwich and at the time “the green store” made some of the best hoagies that my taste buds can remember. The owners, a friendly Asian couple, posted pictures of all the neighborhood kids on their wall. When I returned there, almost 6 months pregnant, the wife, Sunny, remembered me. She gawked at my belly, in shock that the kid she used to see stumble into her store was now wobbling in, expecting a kid of her own. Her husband, an always seemingly stoic man, glanced over and gave me a smile. I’m sure he didn’t remember me but his acknowledgment was enough.
As I posed in front of my friends camera, Sunny came out with two Styrofoam cups of fresh watermelon juice to offer. It reminded me of the watermelon shaped and flavored lollipops I used to get there from there store when I was a kid. Those, along with the multi-colored gel pens that all the girls bought and used to decorate their skin with were my go-to purchases. For some time, I would faithfully use those gel pens to “tattoo” the rapper’s name “Nas” on my forearm. I did it everyday for about a week or so until the day that my older cousin recognized it. The way he questioned it made me throw my arm behind my body in embarrassment. “Does that say Nas?” he asked. I denied the allegations but he knew and continued to laugh anyway. THAT was the last time I sported my gel-penned “Nas” tattoo.
“You’re more than welcome to come in and take a look around.” The excitement I felt was indescribable. I hadn’t been in that house in years.
Renfrew Ave will forever be my home. I lived in that brick colonial from the ages of 1 to 12. After that, we moved to some apartment less than 2 minutes away and then eventually another house in Hopewell. When we arrived, I knocked on the door. I wanted to ask the current homeowners if it was okay to pose out on
my their lawn. To my surprise, they had just moved there two weeks prior. They welcomed my little photoshoot and before I walked away to begin, the jovial couple stopped us and said, “You’re more than welcome to come in and take a look around.” The excitement I felt was indescribable. I hadn’t been in that house in years. As I toured the house, gleefully showing the owners what used to be and what was new, I could envision random moments of me enjoying that house in my mind. I could see myself and my family just like we were, back then.
I’ve heard people say that having a kid wasn’t a big deal and all I could ever do was think to myself, “Well, how the fuck is it not?”
After swatting bugs away for about 10 minutes in the sweltering heat but successfully (and surprisingly) getting some graceful pictures, we went down the street to get some shots at the bus stop. The bus stop I used to wait at when I started going to Incarnation Catholic School. This bus stop was pivotal because it marked a transition in my life.
Up until that point, I had went to public Trenton schools and was accustomed to just that. I had my friends and I had my life. Transferring to a catholic school in a different town would introduce me to different rules, different people. Eventually, I would come to know that the two years I spent at Incarnation, where about half of the students were white, would prepare me for my attendance at an all-white school in an all-white neighborhood. The significance behind that point in my life mirrors the transition that I am now currently experiencing. l’ve heard people say that having a kid wasn’t a big deal and all I could ever do was think to myself, “Well, how the fuck is it not?” Wondering about my childhood, who it made me and how it would contribute to the makings of my son was a big deal on its own. Marking this particular time and place in my life was again, a big deal. One day, I’ll look back at these pictures, adding them to my book of memories. This time my son would be apart of the memory. He would have had inspired it. The same way he has inspired my new life, the rest of my life. And that… that’s a big deal.
(Images shot by Dahlia W. (Painted Black Studios))