"You know what they say: A little childhood trauma builds character."
-Ed, Edd, n Eddy
It comes in waves, my memories and the resentment. I often think about how my childhood was stolen from me. Born an only child in a single-mother household, I was forced to grow up fast. I was taking care of myself as early as eight years old because mama was either out working or gambling her free time away. Besides my cousins, my bedroom walls were my best friends because my mom bought me everything I wanted-no need to be social. Every game system, every book, every pokemon card, every hitclip, every fucking thing I wanted, my mom didn't tell me no. I recall never wanting the same things my cousins wanted, although I still received them–the typical Black boy necessities: new Jordans, complete with black socks, white tees, and wristbands. I didn't care for sports or their accessories. I didn't care for the toys, the wrestlers, the HotWheels, I hated cars and still do. I didn't care for the Legos, which is probably why I never got into Minecraft, plus by the time that game was released, I was in college and way passed playing video games. My mom made sure to break that habit in high school. It wasn't a secret that she was doing my homework in middle school while I stayed glued to my PlayStation playing Tomb Raider, Tekken and Crash Bandicoot. All of that changed after my first day of freshman year. I came home to a gameless bedroom, she sold and pawned it all. Sat me down and told me to grow up. She said, "You're never going to get anywhere if you don't focus, learn some skills and talk to people. I want you to make it out of this town." It annoyed her that her child couldn't read as fast as the others, or that I had no desire to be physically active or had no interest in joining the military. I had other dreams.
I was always into pencils and paper, it occupied my time while my cousins played with their buffed out wrestlers or dissed each other over basketball. But after my mom's cold-turkey stunt, I wanted to read books and draw my imagination to escape my surroundings. I hated being an only child because I wanted a sibling for consolation. I wanted someone around to reassure me that things were going to be ok. Looking back now, my life wasn't bad at all, compared to what I've seen in the world today. Of course from a child's perspective, you truly believe that this is the best your life is going to be because it's all you've ever known, right? At least that's what it felt like to me. The things that crushed me as a child was domestic violence at home and bullying at home and school. It was devasting watching my mother being thrown on steps and struck with landline receivers and closed fists. I loathe my father for leaving her. I loathe my stepdad for abusing her. Unfortunately, this was my strongest connection to my cousins, our mom's suffering-granted my relationship with my cousins was already built on broken bridges. Their teasing and bullying forced me to expect it in school. I was the smallest and youngest of the 1st-cousins (9 of us) until I was 11. I was called gay before I knew what it meant. My voice was too high pitched compared to the other boys, my body language was considered too feminine, my interest wasn't masculine enough, no matter what I did wasn't enough for my peers to consider me normal to them.
Adults loved me though, a very well mannered kid. I only spoke if I was spoken to because I'd be hugging my mom's leg. She'd pat my head, "What do you say, DePaul?" This was my cue for yes ma'am, no sir, please and thank yous. I thought I resented my mom for her parenting but now, I do not blame her. What else could she have done? She truly wanted the best for me and as a Black male to make it in this world, I know it was one of her priorities that I became well rounded in communicating with all walks of life. Lately, I've been enjoying the honor of just being able to talk to my mom, about anything, the random things that cross my mind. This is something I've always wanted, but growing up I found it extremely difficult to talk to her about my feelings in fear of judgment, being kicked out from under her roof, or lack of empathy. However, on Mother's Day of this year, after I surprised her by showing up at her door, we had some heart-to-hearts that will forever make any moment of my traumatic childhood null and void. She told me, "I can't wait to see you walk across that stage for the highest degree in your field. I can rest now, knowing my baby can take care of himself in this life."