Delaware was a bust. I thought I was moving to a nice ‘burb where I could raise my son happily; for about three minutes, I’d bought into the picket fence dream. Reality was full of stormy arguments and few smiles. We moved to Chester, Pennsylvania — a place that was nearly the opposite of Dover, Delaware, in many ways. Where Dover was this (at the time) sleepy little town (yes, there is an Air Force base, but it was separate from the town itself. Sure, there were times when planes would come in and it was great to see, but beyond that, it was hard to remember it was there at all), surrounded by Amish farms and, so I found out later, wasn’t the greatest place for people of color who didn’t work for the Base. Chester, on the other hand, was a city filled with people of color.
I got a job working with pregnant and parenting teen moms, aged 15-22. Some of my students had given birth to their first children at the age of 12. A typical math discussion was:
If you had your daughter at 12 and then she gets pregant and gives birth when she is 12, you will be a grandmother at 24.
If your granddaughter has a baby at 12, you will be a great-grandmother at 36.
It was often an eye-opener for them.
Walking the streets near the job was new every day. I was able to buy bean pies and The Final Call on the regular, especially when the mosque moved next door. To hear the cries of ‘Good morning, beautiful Black sister — Final Call today?’ was real life in what I felt was a hip city. It had its ugly parts, but to me, it was just fine.
I walked to work every day. Nine city blocks. The good part was, I was able to take my son with me; the program for which I worked had a daycare and I was able to bring my child, just like my students did. The husband, who by this time had gotten a Thunderbird (I called it The Green Hornet in the previous post, but honestly it didn’t have a name), drove to work every day.
One of the worst days in Chester came during a big snow. I’d walked to work as usual and had heard on the news that a storm was rolling in. By 11 or so in the morning, it was nearly a whiteout. We closed the program and sent the students home. Once I had locked up, I bundled my son and myself and walked the nine blocks to my house.
The husband was there, in bed. His job had closed early due to the storm as well, but I guess it was too much of an inconvenience to check on me and our son.
I decided that day I would buy a car. I went to a buy-here-pay-here place and got a Mazda RX7. It was lovely, fast, and low. A great get-away car, I often thought and wondered why … I didn’t … get … away.
I chose this low to the ground jam because I knew the husband would hate it. Thinking back, I don’t remember him ever riding in it. Which was okay. It was a place of peace for my son and I.
But then, 1999 happened.