I remember watching houses burn in Detroit. It happened all of the time. My dad worked late at a place called Adam’s Rib and many times when he came home, there would be a house fire somewhere on our block. I remember one house that was set fire to at least five times. All that was left of it was the chimney and the front and left part of the house. I was surprised it could still stand. My dad would take me outside and we would watch with the rest of the neighborhood as the fire engulfed a house. We would wait until the firefighters came, our entertainment for the night. Although I was only a child, those memories still last with me. It makes me sick to think about it now, how we were entertained by house fires caused by arsonists. But that was Detroit. I remember how one night, I was looking out the window at the house across the street, I thought the woman had orange lights on but it was actually the small flames of a fire starting. I remember how the woman who lived in that house died that night because of that fire. A grandmother not knowing what to do, helpless to the flames.
I remember when my mother became fed up with Detroit and our neighborhood. How she feared the lives of me and my new born baby sister. I remember looking for houses. How one house we went into, the whole basement was flooded and how another, we found out later, was housing a bomb. I remember finally coming to Warren. Moving into a house much smaller than the last but with a neighborhood that was much safer. I remember making my first friends there. These two children that lived down the street, a little younger than me. I remember the friendliness of everyone despite still living so close to danger. I remember thinking how Warren was kind of like an alternate universe neighborhood. Everyone knew one another and everyone was there for each other.
I remember the schools I attended and the friends I made and how I am still in contact with some of them today. I remember making my first best friend in Kindergarten and how we lasted as friends up until 9th grade. I remember when we reached middle/high school and she just changed. She just turned into this completely different person. How she stopped talking to me and stopped wanting to hang out. How she thought I was to much of a “loser” to hang with her and her new found friends. And I remember when we were talking about boys we liked and she told me that I was too ugly to get a boyfriend. I remember me ending our friendship.
I remember 8th grade. I remember getting ready to go into high school and I remember going to D.C for our class trip. I remember taking pictures and now I think about how I had never thought about photography, even then. I remember all the fun I had and how that was the first time I had ever been out of Michigan. I remember soon after, that Spring, my father was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. I remember not really knowing what that was and thinking that he was probably going to be okay because him and my mother were really good at hiding the true danger. I remember when nurses had to start coming to take care of him. The pain in his eyes but the smile on his face. I remember when I got picked up from school just to get home as my father was being taken away in an ambulance.I remember going to the hospital and hearing that my father would never be coming home again and I remember seeing him for the last time, in pain on that hospital bed. I remember that following morning, my sister and I were told by my mom that he had died. I remember the crying and all the tears. I remember the pain that we all felt then and still feel today.
I remember being in tenth grade and finding out that we were going to be moving five hours north that Summer. I remember how upset I was, only being two years away from Graduation and having to leave everything behind. Friends especially. I remember my Aunt saying that it was for the best, a good time to start over. I remember my mom falling for it too. I remember the day we moved, all the packing we had to do and how many people I didn’t have a chance to say good bye too. I remember the drive. Passing by all the city life until all that was in view was the cement road and trees on either side, completely away from any city life.
I remember hating Manistee. The smallness of it, the people inhabiting it, everything. I remember attending Manistee High School. I remember the people there, how I felt when I first showed up and how it felt like so many people were staring at me because I was someone that no one knew. How awkward it all was. I remember my first few lunches at Manistee High. I remember realizing how cliquey the students were. How at this school there was a such thing as prep, jock, goth, etc. Something I had only seen in movies and very very little of at my old school. I remember going to school with my cousin, someone who I thought would have been a friend. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I remember hearing rumors spread about me, people coming up to me and saying so I heard you did this or I heard you’re that. I remember not making many friends at that school.
I remember the first time I did drugs. A girl like me, somewhat of a loner, introducing me to marijuana and other things. I remember how I told myself a long time ago that I would never do drugs and how I found myself doing them now. I remember when my mom and sister found out and how disappointed they were in me and how it was the most awful feeling I had ever felt.
I remember graduation. I remember the relief I felt being done with that school and how happy I was to be done. I remember wishing that I wasn’t graduating at this school, but at my other school. The school I felt that I really belonged at. I remember wishing my dad was there to see me.
I remember starting community college. Lucky to have one person I knew to show me around. I remember the environment being so drastically different from high school, even though it was a relatively small college. I remember the people I met and how they turned out to be some of the best people I will probably ever meet. I remember becoming really close friends with someone, someone I had least suspected at the time. I remember figuring out that I loved photography. I remember going back and forth between the thought of psychology and photography for fear that I wasn’t good enough at taking photos. I remember how my friend a the time really helped me to follow my dream of photography and when I think about it, I wouldn’t be going to the school of my dreams if it wasn’t for that person. I remember when I lost that person as a friend. How I ended it because of certain words exchanged and I remember regretting it after.
I remember going to Chicago with two girls, two of the sweetest people I have ever met and all the fun I had despite some memories endured while there. I remember how one helped out a homeless person and how hesitant we all were about it. I remember Yogen Fruz and Ragstock. I remember how simple the trip was and how simple everything we did was but how much fun we had and how I hadn’t had that much fun in a long time. And despite being poor in the end, it was totally worth it.
And then I return to now. All the things in my life I’ve endured so far. Happiness, sadness, anger, regret, disappointment, pain. Still having more life to live, wondering how much I will remember by the time I’m 70.