In response to today’s Daily Prompt ( http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/daily-prompt-west-end-girls/ ) I thought I would write about my childhood.
My Mum had me quite young and she was still living at home when she had me so I was lucky enough to have my Nan and Pop help raise me too. Well, I think they actually did more for me than what my Mum did but that’s a completely different kettle of fish.
I grew up in a not-so-great suburb where crime and drugs was a problem.
It wasn’t always like that.
My Pop bought the house in the 1940’s when the road out the front was still dirt and sheep and cattle would be moved along it. Everyone knew everyone and it was very safe but as the years went on, the area attracted a different “crowd”.
Housing commission houses/units were built (high density style) and most of the families that moved into the area were poor, they came from families who survived on welfare payments, those kids who’s parents worked usually worked hard labouring jobs and didn’t earn a great deal of money. Some friends Mum’s had to turn their garages into “mini sweat shops” where they would sew most hours of the day to meet their quotas sewing clothes for big brands and international companies for a small wage.
Many kids were “latch-key kids” from a young age, some as young as about 5years old. They would be expected to get themselves ready for school and come home to an empty house at the end of the school day while their parents worked.
I was one of the lucky ones. My family had a house to call our own that was paid off, I had 3 adults to be there for me whenever I needed them. Some of my friends would come over and play at our place, they’d often end up staying for a meal, occasionally we’d have sleep overs.
As I got older, my grandparents continued to instil their wisdom and their own upbringing on me. I learnt not to waste anything, I learnt to reuse and repurpose whatever I could and to recycle or compost what was left over. Almost nothing was rubbish as such.
One thing I will never forget is my Pop telling me “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll most likely get fleas”. Or in other words, if you mix with good, law-abiding people you’ll turn out good, but if you mix with people who continuously wanted to cause trouble, commit crimes and use drugs then you’d most likely end up following that path too.
Some of my friends came from honest families, other friends not so much.
From a young age I had been taught right from wrong and new what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a saint, but I knew not to do things that would get me on the wrong side of the law.
When I was a teenager, the housing estate where most of my friends lived turned into a very scary place. Unfortunately the problems got worse as the media kept doing stories on how bad the area was becoming. The problem families (yes- the parents were causing as much trouble as the kids) would lap up all the (bad) attention they were getting and play up for the cameras even more.
Thankfully all the locals knew each other; not necessarily by name, but we recognised each others faces. When things were at their worst, I still felt relatively safe walking my little dog around the area. I could walk past gangs and nothing would be said. I think it must have been like a mutual respect type of thing. They knew I wouldn’t cause any hassles and I knew they wouldn’t hassle me if I didn’t give them a reason to.
As the years went on and I got older, I found more of my friends getting into trouble. I tried to help them how I could but I was not going to be led down the same path that they were going.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you mix with people who do seem nice enough at the start but end up on the wrong side of the tracks, it doesn’t mean you have to end up like them.
I may have lied down with dogs at one point in my life, but I didn’t end up with fleas.
My Mum and Nan still live in the area but about a decade or so ago, the housing estate was demolished, replanned and reconfigured and rebuilt. Some of the old families got to move back in and a lot of new people moved in to the area.
Much of the crime has gone, but it’ll never be what it used to be.
Nothing ever is.