I grew up in Plano. I know what most people think when they hear Plano. Money. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Eastside, my friend.
The house I grew up in was tiny. Just 4 little rooms and and the tiniest bathroom ever. (but it was gorgeous pink tile!) 2 bedrooms, a living room and the kitchen. But it was a loooong time before I realized how poor we were. No one else I knew had anything either. We all lived in tiny houses or tiny apartments. We all played outside until the streetlights came on and we all had the best times. I remember decorating our Christmas tree with popcorn and bows from our packages the year before. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized it wasn't just crafty, it was necessity. Perhaps that is why I now have an obsession with expensive mercury glass ornaments from Europe! Anyway. We had very little but neither did anyone else. I loved my home and my neighborhood. I always felt safe and loved. As I grew older I began to notice that our neighborhood wasn't like the others. I noticed how small our house was, how crowded the streets were with cars on blocks, how many people there were hanging out in their yards because they didn't have a/c. (which WE had, we must have been RICH!)
As I got older I became aware of the significance of the shacks in the Sombrano's backyard. As a small child I thought it was cool that they had people living in their several sheds. Gradually I realized they were illegal immigrants living in squalor, yet in much better conditions than they had left in Mexico.
I realized that not everyone had a man pushing a tamale cart around the neighborhood. I spent many an evening peeking out the blinds watching the cops intervene with our neighbors for so many a domestic altercation. (and probably more than a few drug busts)
The older I got, the less safe I felt in our neighborhood. I don't like leaving my car parked in the street now that someone has tried to break into it right in front of my mom's house! I warn my mother to always lock her doors, although she never does. I encourage my parents to MOVE OUTTA that dump of a neighborhood at every opportunity. They neither asked for nor appreciate my advice.
This Sunday afternoon my mom invited me over to attend the annual Blackland Praire Days Festival in downtown Plano. The old part. All the stores open up, people come dressed in prairie garb. There are corn dogs, cotton candy, horse and buggy rides, old timey photos...you know the type. I agreed but was a little taken aback when she suggested we walk. I didn't really feel comfortable walking to downtown in my old neighborhood. But I didn't want to disappoint my mom and it was a nice day after all. I clutched my purse as we set out.
But something happened as we made the nearly 2 mile walk to downtown. I stepped over the bump in the sidewalk where I used to "jump" my bike. I hugged an elderly neighbor, Meme, that I hadn't seen in a long time since she has trouble getting out these days. She looked just as I remembered her and hugged just as hard as always! I noticed the trees that had grown taller, I admired the tar in the streets that I used to pop tar bubbles with a stick in the summer heat.
I smiled at the Tejano music that blared from the cars that passed. That much hasn't changed. I looked for the tamale man and vowed that if I saw him, I would purchase his homemade tamales. (even though I knew he would only have pork tamales) I once again saw the beauty in the older homes that line our streets.I listened to the breeze rustle the trees and felt the sun shine on my head. Once again I walked side by side with my "momma" in our old neighborhood. I was a little girl again and I was certainly safe.
For just a little while, I didn't notice how tiny or run down so many of the houses were. I didn't care that the Sombranos STILL have people living in the sheds in the backyard. (well, just Mrs. Sombrano, Mr. Sombrano has since passed away) My eyes couldn't see the graffiti on the wall that divides our neighborhood from the industrial complex next to us. All I could see was my old neighborhood in all it's glory.
Sometimes, just sometimes, we get lucky and we CAN go home again.