My mom is moving to another city.
For the first time in my life, Flint isn’t my home.
I’m going to miss it. As much as I hate that city, as much as I hated my neighborhood, East Bishop Avenue was home.
We had to leave because the city isn’t safe anymore.
Last week, my mom’s house was broken into. But that alone isn’t the reason we’re leaving.
It’s kind of an old bag for us. That’s just what happens on the Northside of Flint, Mich.
Yes, from Bowling for Columbine/Roger & Me/any other Michael Moore movie you have seen and loved. And my hometown has been on that recession when the rest of the country was still in flush times. I just wish we could say we were on to the next one.
I can’t count how many times our house has been broken into. After a while, it doesn’t make sense to get mad. You just stop buying nice things, or if they get taken, you can at least put it into perspective:
No one was home. No one got hurt. No one got shot. It’s just stuff. We have insurance.
It literally happened at least once every 3 to 5 years. The last few times, I was always away. At school. At an internship. At work. At law school. I’d get the news and do what I could to help from whatever state I was at the time. This time, it meant getting my mom a plane ticket home to Michigan as soon as possible.
When I think about that house now, I remember all the hot summer days my mom made us follow behind her with the trash bag to collect the clippings as she lined the hedges that surrounded the property. I remember how it always amused me that I could turn off all of the lights in the house and still walk from the front door to my room without hitting anything. I remember playing on my porch. We had the best porch ever. It ran the entire width of the house and had this thick railing that you could sit on. It looked out at the vacant field across the street from my house and the large tree that sat in my front yard. I remember not learning to ride a bike because we lived at the top of a hill at the end of the street. I remember being afraid to go into the storage room beneath our stairs because there was always a spider that had built a cobweb near the light and I didn’t want to touch it. I remember the day we got new carpet. My mom did it, if I remember correctly, while we were at school. We left school that morning and our house had this ugly green brown shag carpet. When we returned, our house had this deep lilac colored carpet. I thought it was too bright. My mom loved it. It stayed.
I remember when we got the bars on our windows. Our house had been broken into so many times, we had them installed in hopes of keeping people out. I remember being scared that if there was a fire that I wouldn’t be able to get out of the window. I’d sit in my bed at night sometimes and rehearse how I’d get out if I needed to. (I’d pop the safety button on the window, slide it open, balance on the window sill and then dangle from the window and drop down to the ground below — this was a big deal to me because I’m short and afraid of heights.) I remember the time I got held up at gunpoint on my porch. I remember being so scared as I ran in the house to tell my family that I couldn’t even get words out. The man didn’t take anything, but my friend, who was sitting on my porch with me, didn’t come back to my house. None of my friends came to my house much. Though Flint is relatively small, I stayed in the “bad part” and some of their parents were worried about their kids being over my house. I never had a birthday party or a sleepover there.
The house I grew up in was small, modest. A white two bedroom house with a great big porch that I remember playing on as a kid. We had this huge tree in the front of our house and we lived across the street from a big empty field. When the owner cut the grass, we’d play kickball or tag in it. Otherwise, we’d take our phone cords and play double dutch in the shade of that tree.
The house next door was an exact mirror of ours. They moved out years ago and no one ever moved in. A few years ago, they demolished that house and my mom bought the lot it sat on. Slowly, the people I grew up with all moved away. The women my mother knew on the street, they moved away. When I came home after a few years, the entire street had transitioned from home owners to renters. The yards were unkempt. More houses than not were boarded up. Even though I’d lived on that street longer than most of the residents had been alive, I worried that my car would be broken into because it had Mississippi plates; they’d think I was a visitor.
This time, the burglars didn’t take much. Our televisions and valuables were still there. Instead, they took the copper pipes that ran through our basement. As they worked, they tore the metal from the baseboard, unleashing gallons of water in our basement. My mother said when she got to the house, the pillows in her room upstairs were still damp from the moisture in the air. Our water bill for last month? Hundreds of dollars.
I know I”m probably being selfish by being upset that my room isn’t going to be there anymore when the place where my mother has lived the last 30 years is going to be gone. I think we’ll all miss it a little.
I just wish I had gotten a chance to go home one more time.