Friday, January 31, 2014

West Philadelphia--Born and Raised

Sometimes I wonder how much the boys will remember living in West Philly.  Will they remember a day like today?  Walking through the crowd of angry customers outside a quick tax refund store on the way to attend story time where the best (and only) behaved kids are the lesbian's only to return home and nudge through the crowd again and hope Christian isn't listening to those five different swearwords, doesn't notice the strong smell of alcohol, cigarettes, and whatever other puff was in the air, and and neglects to see those men starting a brawl.  I wonder if they will remember when water just stops without warning for the entire apartment complex (all 13 floors) and there is no knowing when it will turn on again?  I hope they do.

What I hope they don't remember is fear.

Honestly I have rarely felt fearful here. Yes, there have been a few crazies left over from the crack epidemic, but for the most part I've never felt until tonight.
 I was out with another woman from church visiting some primary kids in the further outreaches of West Philly.  Books were read, paper airplanes made, hugs given and it was time to go.  When leaving, the woman I was driving with  accidentally cut off a very slow moving car as we approached a red light.  The car laid on it's horn and my friend moved over assuming the driver was intending to turn right. The car came up to us and I, forgetting the sage advice of my bro-in-law Mike when i was visiting California to never look at other drivers as it can be reason enough for them to shoot you , turned my head to see a 30 year old man glaring back at me.  I'm not sure I ever felt more vulnerable--waiting for the light to turn,  turning my head back straightforward hoping that we could just move when I heard a pop.
 For three very long seconds I thought we had been shot at, I think I looked first down at me  to make sure I was not shot before I looked up at the window and we realized he had thrown an ice ball, perhaps with a rock.  They sped off and we drove with the green light, but it took until I was back in the apartment safe with Stephen and the boys before my might heart stopped racing.   I know, it sounds lame when it's put in words, but it may just be a life changing experience.

Why? Because up to now if my life I have never really known fear.  Yes, I get terrified at scary movies and it was all the bravery I could muster to run from Stephanie Schumann's house in the dark along the deserted shortcut back home,  but fear of anonymous violence has been a foreign face to me--and that's the way it should be.  I want my children to have their scariest moments to be from playing "Scare Stephen/Dad" where they search in a dark house for Stephen who is hiding and jumps out to scare them when they get close (A game Stephen remembers with fondness from playing it with is dad).  This wasn't some 15 year old prank, this was some 30 year old guy.  On the ride home I couldn't help feel sick that there are women, children and even men who are living here and have a constant alertness, to feel so out of control of one's future must be grating on the soul.
In always thought I wasn't really bothered by violence.  I realized in the past couple years that I can't stand to watch violence against women or children.  I think it's time I stop worrying about whether there is violence in my movies and start doing something if there is violence in my neighborhood. sigh.


Charles Cranney said...

I remember my first moment of fear from violence out of my control. We were in Salt Lake City and had just beaten West High School (the inner city school there) in our march to the state championship. We Orem naive kids got on the school bus to go back home. All of a sudden we realized that West High School students were pelting the bus with rocks, which seemed unfathomable to me. I remember the yelling, the screaming, the fear. Still, compared to most of what's happened historically, we live in a pretty peaceful age, for which I am grateful.

Astromom said...

Honestly I would have been fearful on that walk to and from the library, I feel a little bad saying this but it has always scared me your lack of fear, it is a good thing but when you live where you do I think a healthy dose is good. Maybe not, more faith is probably better. We miss you, I think I better include your family's safety in my prayers through, I know I did that when Joseph's family was in New Orleans, but I think you may need those prayers more where you live. Love you and your family lots. By the way, you are a great writer, I could totally see you as a journalist.