Round the Way: Inheritance

Jasmine Hill

© Copyright 2018 by Jasmine Hill

Photo of a sunrise. (c) 2005 by Richard Loller.

 My mom, four siblings, and I lived in a rust colored brick apartment complex in a neighborhood sandwiched between Shreveport Regional Airport, where those with enough resources could flee, and Fair Park High School, where those with none could learn how. This middle ground was known as Greenwood Terrace to those in passing, GT to those with no plans to leave, and the hood to everyone in between.

We children usually kept to ourselves, inside our little complex, seldomly venturing outside without an adult or a destination beyond it, making our home prone to otherwise simple marvels, and our locales the subject of our curiosity.

From where I stood, the trajectories of our community seemed simple. Everyone in wanted out, and everyone out, never came back. It was a logic I spent years observing from my bedroom window, its seed manifesting in varying forms, from heaves of anger and frustration introducing teen runaways, to mounds of grief and sorrow following the knock of a badged uniform, and the flashing of reds and blues on his or her mother’s windows not long after.

It seemed everyone wanted to leave for different reasons, but they all followed the same logic. They all believed what awaited them elsewhere had to be better than what they were leaving behind, a logic I could no more agree with than deny.

But even with everone's desire to escape, no one could take away from the fact that, in spite of its apparitions, a sunrise in GT was worth a second glance.

Before Mom could make her rounds, first to my sister and my room, then to the boys' no more than three steps away from ours, if it were a morning worth observing, I'd already be awoken by the streams of sunlight peeking through the tattered tears of our burgundy curtains, fluttering about my eyelids.

I’d allow the sunlight to guide me through my home, its streams blazing through the sheer white and dark browns of the living room curtains, illuminating the corners of the apartment in ways light bulbs never could.

Even the two unemployed windows in the kitchen; the one above the sink and the other sandwiched between the refrigerator and the Kurio cabinet riddled with miss-matched China sets could serve a purpose on mornings like these, ordinarily their only purpose as placeholders due to residents after residents never bothering to wash them.

I myself had tried to clean them in the earlier parts of the nine years I’d lived there to get a better view of the neighborhood and satiate my curiosity, only to find that what my family and I had inherited was a forsaken window with a view blurred and fogged beyond repair.

But while the fine details of the neighborhood were out of view from behind the window, the light of sunrises never failed to shine through and illuminate the kitchen in golden streams that seemed to leap on and off the kitchen table and pranced about the China sets.

Back then, I’d have to sneak outside to witness the sunset because my siblings and I weren’t allowed to wait outside with the other kids despite the fact that the bus stop was at the foot of our apartment.

"I wish I would let y'all wait outside with those Hades babies", she’d say, a string of giggles following as there’s no way to say such a thing seriously. It was probably for the best as my younger and older brother were prone to arguments and fight, and us to defending them.

Funny, maybe we would have fit in with the other kids.

Maybe that's what she was afraid of.

Nevertheless, most days I didn’t mind, considering it a service to spare our worn brown pastures, and give it a break from trotting feet, the only greenery in sight in lowly disconnected clusters.

But when the sun seemed to rise like a giant from behind the trees, just barely setting them ablaze, the lights would cast just enough light and shadow on the neighborhood to allow our imagination to run free, mine filling it with lush greens plots of grass and bubbling streams to accompany the dew drops on leaf blades and intricate cobwebs.

Sunrises in GT were beautiful.

And not just to me, but to the entire community.

It was an event that drew children, widows, elders, moms, dads, and skulking children alike, and it was one of the few times there was a blanket of peace across Greenwood.

But of course this was not its reality.

When middle school came, Mom had to make a decision: keep her five kids safe within the apartment with her all the time, or retain some of her sanity.

So, not long into the school year, we started being allowed to venture outside more, and even joined Greenwood’s after school program. It was no more than a block away from our complex so we walked there most afternoons.

During this time in my life, I was appreciative for this period to discover the community and participate in the afterschool program because, while I enjoyed learning new things at school and getting to share them at the dinner table at night with my mom and siblings over the cries of laughter and scraps of forks to plates, some days weren’t easy and required a village.

On those sure days when the day’s residue from bullying and usual school sufferings remained, just the walk to GT’s community center would soothe me as I’d bathe in the reds, oranges, and sometimes purples and blues of the afternoon and listen to an orchestra of wind as it swept leaves from apartment to apartment across the sidewalks, and twirled them about its potholes.

I could open up to other kids about my troubles on the walk to the center or the adults when I got there, and listen as they’d describe a similar moment in their days or lives, and feel a sense of relief to know that in my day-to-day suffering, I wasn’t alone.

Most days I was blessed to be able to come home to the thick smell of pork chops, potatoes, and peas, pop down on the comfortable leather couches in the living room, and have my siblings mock whatever distressing moment that’d been replaying in my mind that day, allowing my woes to melt away.

But at least without the center I had my family, which was more than too many of the kids of GT could say.

They had nowhere to let their troubles melt, often times their own homes absent of love, safety, and peace, causing their day-to-day residue to collect and harden on them until they became someone unrecognizable and something they themselves were afraid of.

The community center was more closely aligned to the school than the airport. It seemed out of place in Greenwood, hosting two dark grand doors on its large cobblestone bricks, those of which seemed to pattern the structure in protruding waves. The center was fronted by a bricked sign that read, “Greenwood Terrace”, and colorful red and yellow flowers that traced its parameter and seemed to arc at its feet.

GT sunrises remind me of the first time I walked in the community center with my mom. Her eyes lit up in excitement, giving the impression that what awaited inside was just as grand as its outside, only to find that it wasn’t nearly as so.

It had the same depressing lighting and tiles one would find in a school or prison cafeteria, two brown chairs strewn in no particular order, one of which dented inward, and wall’s slicked with the same dully textured paint job as our apartment’s. The only source of entertainment in sight was peeling it off as we often did at home.

Directly in front of us was the exit, and, after taking notice of my gesture to use either it or the one we’d just come from, my mom nudged me and made a statement that I’d spend the next decade of my life considering.

Have some imagination baby. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there, and just because it’s not there, doesn’t mean it won’t be. Change starts with a vision.”

At the time, I had no idea how much this statement would define me.

You want us to spend our after school hours at a” I joked.

Why not? It’ll help y’all see what one looks like.’ she responded, starting towards its conduit.

She started being a lot more involved in the community after that, which meant all of her kids did. We were at the center almost every day after school, watching with pride as it grew from an empty facility with just my family, it’s director, and two other kids, to ten kids, to over 45 kids being feed, tutored, and mentored, all at what was once just a vision.

The Hade GT kids, those we once strayed from out of fear of becoming just like, became our family as we began to realize the only thing that made us different was their unique struggles.

I’ve learned many things from my mom, but I consider this one of the most important lessons she could’ve passed down to me.

Sunrises did something to GT’s residents that they could not admit to others, let alone themselves. It allowed them to acknowledge that, past the fog they’ve inherited and the reality that they knew to be true, they could still hope for, and envision more, and worst of all that they could make it their reality.

In Greenwood, it’s easy to simply accept the hopeless reality that’s been handed down, and for those unfortunate not to have guidance like mine to tell them otherwise, it’s all but expected.

My mom reminded me that day that I determined my reality, and that it was ok to see more than what was in front of me.

For many GT residents, sunrises serve as their reminder that they too could do the same and that hope for them still existed in GT not only drawing out the seemingly hopeless, but also reminding the hopeful new residents from behind their inherited fog that they are not alone.

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