There has always existed for me since childhood an imaginary fence. On one side of the fence was what society considered “The Good People.” These would be the people that were raised in decent families, had good jobs, had good names, went to good schools, etc. On the other side of the fence was what society considered “The Delinquent People”. These were the people that had children as teenagers, didn’t have very good jobs, dropped out of school, struggled through most of their life, were poor, couldn’t afford much and hadn’t the reputation to settle it.
All my life I was made to see the Fence. It was not as though people pointed it out to me and said “You see that! That is the line! Do not cross!” It was just seen that way through society. You were either on one side of the fence or the other and you were there since you were born because your Mother and Father set the lines and their Mother and Father before them and and so on. Since childhood I was made to see those lines from my friends, from my clothes, from how people treated me at school: regular towns people, to strangers on the street. It was just how life was.
So I was born on the side of the fence of “The Delinquent People”. My family was very, very, very poor. It was no one’s fault mind you, my Mother and Father worked so very hard. It was just how it was. Both sides of my family were born on that one side of the fence, so it was that I was born on that side of the fence.
When you are a child you don’t realize it. I loved my life. I didn’t care that we were poor and couldn’t really afford food. I didn’t care that my favorite snack was sugar on bread because we couldn’t afford candy or Hostess cakes. I didn’t care that all my clothes were hand me downs and that I didn’t have that years latest toy, let alone got many gifts at all in general. I loved my life. I loved going outside and finding food and catching fish and crabs so we’d have dinner for a few days. I could not tell you how happy I was during the worst times in life for my family. I had no idea that we were really any different from anyone else until I started Kindergarten.
I can honestly say that I never realized why I held onto this memory until my Mother explained it to me years later, but I remember my first day on the bus to Kindergarten. I was made to sit in the very front of the bus and when I got to school I was placed in a corner away from the other children. I sat there alone with another girl named Amanda. It did dawn on me at that young age that I didn’t look like everyone else and that they were somewhat different but not until my Mother explained it to me did I understand. I was placed on the front of the bus and in the corner of the gym with Amanda because my family was poor and my Grandmother was half Mexican and Amanda’s family was very poor as well. We were grouped and there we sat away from all the other kids. You might think I’m a fool, you may say “People don’t do that for real.” But they do, at least they did in that time.
I was nit picked for my clothes, for my family, for the toys I had, for the friends I was capable of keeping. I remember a great many memories from this time of children laughing and pointing, pushing me down. I was friends with two people, Amanda and Niki. And every day we’d sit around the playground and dream of things we could never have and watch Lindsey and Josey with their tribe of “decent” kids. One day on the playground Lindsey motioned Niki over to her group. I will never forget the look of loss and regret as she turned once to look at Amanda and me and then turned around and went over to Lindsey and we never saw her again. Niki became, still to this day, one of the “The Good People.” People sometimes get a chance to cross that fence.
Amanda and I remained friends through our childhood lives and I spent a great many years of my life dreaming about the other side of the fence. When everyone was watching the Simpson’s I would have been lucky to even get channel 9 on my TV. When the internet came out I had NO idea what a computer even was because it was not a possible thing. Kids ran around with string cheese and fruit roll ups and I dared not even ask my Mother if one day I could get one of those or even bring a lunch to school. Kids like me spent our lives dreaming of what it was like over there and there were a rare few days I got to see when new friends would come through. I was friends with all the new girls and everyone of them that had a decent family in those small towns left to become one of the ‘Good People’ and I never saw them again.
This was my life, this is what I was made to see through the eyes of others. This magic imaginary fence.
I moved once to my Fathers when I was 13 and I became beyond cool, as any teenager would think so. That’s about how I could explain it. I was friends with everyone’s friends, I wasn’t popular by any means, but I had more friends than I ever knew was possible and I was liked. During this time some of my cousins made a good name for our side of my family, no matter the numerous amounts on that side that were still considered white trash. I moved back in with my Mother to find out that I was offered this chance to cross the fence. I was the fastest runner in gym and everyone wanted me on the Track team and it was Lindsey that came up to me and offered me a space with her and I looked at Niki and I remembered that day when she turned away from us. I turned and looked at Angie and Christina, they were my current friends at the time with delinquent families. Christina was “gothic” which was completely unknown to these other people at the time. I looked at them once and I turned to Lindsey and I gave them the finger.
I chose my side of the fence and I walked off to Angie and Christiana and I walked with them around the track laughing for all the years I dreamed of being over on that side of the fence. I was so proud of myself and after school that day Angie and I went off and had a smoke and joked all day about it. Angie and Christina are the other authors on this blog.
Now I never did say at any time here that there was this imaginary fence. We just all knew there was one. We had our lives accordingly, we bashed that side and that side bashed us. The preps…. the losers…. had different meanings then. If I look far back behind the lines I could see that these people were these people because of how they were raised, not by what they had.
I struggled to keep a good name for a long time. I never went on welfare because I didn’t want people to think of me that way. I worked night and day at jobs to make sure I alone supported my child and I accepted no child support. I was very close to getting married and just settling into the life that was set for me but I passed and moved to Seattle. I met some new friends on a website I wrote columns for. I met a great many people and at first I was slightly abashed by my life. Here were people my own age, all going to college, good families, making money, etc etc. And I was this single mom working 50 hours a week at a job making no more than $5.50 an hour. People accepted me as I was, some shot me down for being a single mother at my age; naturally seeing the fence for where it was, but some saw me for what I was and accepted me as I put myself out. When I went to Seattle it was a new experience entirely, everyone I was hanging around existed on the other side of the fence. I felt inferior to all of them and I masked it behind trying to sweeten things up as best as I could in my own life and pretending to be someone else.
I still have issues with the Picket Fence. I can look at so many people that want to be in my life and I naturally shut them out because I look at them and I see everything I am not, I see all the envy I feel in wishing I were them, I see everything that I could never be because I believed I was not given that choice in birth. I have certain friends that exist on that same fence as me, some on the other, but I eternally see the lines of the fence. I see that I am on this side of Delinquent People, the people who messed up or people that just didn’t have enough in their lives to make themselves a good place. It is not in my mentality to foster the idea that I could live on the other side of the fence. The choices that I have made in my life and for the feeling that I would have to change who I am and the feeling that I’d have to become completely ignorant and naive of everything I once was.
I don’t go around pointing fingers at who exists where and what lines I am on, but I sense it in people. When I say they are better than me I mean by the laws of society and life. Society first drew those lines… for me, for my parents, for my grandparents and so on. What people do not see and what they do not know is the joy that exists behind these dark streets, the happiness and the blood that exists in the families you create and the extent of what we would go through to cross a dusty mountain. We are a hard people, we are a mean people, dirty fighters, but some of us are the most loyal; the most faithful people that anyone could ever meet.
In my head there exists a fine line, an imaginary fence called “The Picket Fence”. I just can’t seem to make it disappear. It’s impossible to relate to everyone, it is… Could you hang out with that Dominatrix in black leather down the street at the Dungeon? What about the Yuppie girl giggling while shopping at the Bon? The single mom living in the trailer park working at the gas station up the street? What about the happy Mom and Dad in suburbia thinking about going to Disney Land next weekend. You can’t relate to everyone. You can only accept.
I wrote this as an explanation to the fence in The Little Girl in the Blue Dress tales. In it exists a very large porcelain fence that the other children cross over to see her. Her house is depicted as broken and the yard dusty with sparse grass and never ending cornfields whereas their lives are placed on the green, green, grasses. She doesn’t wear shoes and is generally dirty, they are clean and well kept and wear shoes. The Little Girl in the Blue Dress tales is creative imagery for the way my mind sees these lines. In this day those lines are blurring and becoming slowly non-existent, but when I was a child they were written in invisible bold permanent marker.
I thought it would be interesting to know if anyone else had ever imagined the fence. What do you think? What color was yours?