Can I show you where I grew up? It’s actually a part of my life that I have kept pretty private. I only showed my husband a couple years ago when I went back to take these pictures. I spent from age 18 months to 11 years old at the Century Village Apartments in a small town in Missouri.
When I went back in 2018, I had a flood of emotions. I was nostalgic as I remembered my brother and I playing with the slinky down the stairs. I was happy when I remembered celebrating my mom’s birthday with a cake in our tiny kitchen at our round table in the corner. I was sad (and a little angry) that this was where I grew up – without a dog or fenced-in backyard. I was proud for all I’ve accomplished seeing where my roots were engrained.
I didn’t know this at the time, but when I went back, I was pregnant. Maybe this was why I was feeling nostalgic and felt the need to go to the place where I spent a good portion of my childhood? I was having dreams about that apartment for a few months prior to visiting. I felt a pull to go back and acknowledge all of the memories I had there.
Isn’t it funny how we remember some of the most random, non- significant things? Like, my mom was the apartment assistant manager for a while, so she got our quarters back from the washer and dryer to re-use. I’ll never forgot those quarters she painted red so she knew which were ours to keep. I remember running down to the apartment basement when we were under a tornado warning – the concrete floor was so cold. I remember the huge willow tree next to the metal swing set in the community play area.
I remember every detail of that apartment. I walk through it in my head over and over - even what I could see looking out the windows. Outside our living room window, we overlooked a rock driveway and metal storage units. Outside my bedroom window, I stared at other apartment buildings and the paved parking lot.
You see some families grow up in a 5-bedroom house with a swimming pool, some grow up in an apartment with a numbered parking spot, some grow up in a two-bedroom duplex sharing a room – and bed – with their mom, some grow up in a rental behind the liquor store in town… Yup, that was all me. From birth to 18 years old, I’d lived the life of money and I’d lived the life of lower class. Each life brought moments of happiness and moments of extreme sadness.
I held a lot of resentment towards my mom over the years. I always thought if she would have just stayed married to my dad that our life would have been so much better. If she wouldn’t have rushed into marrying my step-dad, we wouldn’t have ended up broken, bruised, and sharing a bedroom. Before I became a mother, I knew I wanted my baby to come home to a house, with a yard, and a dog. I wanted to give my child the complete opposite life than what I had.
Then I read something that shook me, this quote in the book Motherhood So White, it says, “In order to become the mother I wanted to be, I had to develop true compassion for the parents I’d had.” pg.66
“In order to become the mother I wanted to be, I had to develop true compassion for the parents I’d had.” - Nefertiti Austin
Woah. Honestly, this quote still brings me to tears. My heart stops for a brief moment every time I read it.
As a wife and a mother now, I see my mom through a different lens. I have compassion for the decisions she made, even if I don’t agree with them. She silently struggled through parts of her life alone. Sharing her feelings, her wants and her needs, were not acceptable. There was no girl’s night out to vent and let loose. There were no therapy resources.
To my mom, and any other moms out there, you are not alone. My heart opens up to you.