I grew up in a very interesting environment. I do not live with regret about that. Living within the horrific and artistic confines of my family home made me the tough skinned, intensely good, instinctual aspiring chef I am today. As a young girl, I traveled bi-coastal between both of my parents’ homes. My father lived in the rich suburbs of San Jose, California. My mother lived with my great-grandfather on our family’s estate in St. Gabriel, Louisiana. My father’s home smelled like rice and fufu. Soccer was always playing on the television. His Jaguar sat beautifully on the curb next to his Volvo. He was a Nigerian immigrant creating a new life in America. My mother was a 4th generation Creole. She was an active alcoholic and occasional crack user. My father abandoned me multiple times as a child, so I was forced to be raised by my great-grandfather. Henderson, my great-grandfather was mentally unstable and abusive. He was the only one allowed to work until he retired in his early eighties. He was the President of the local church Usher board for sixty-three years, but we were not allowed to go to church with him. He would express that our attendance would damage his “perfect” image. We were only permitted to eat leftovers from church fundraisers, and only attend church services where he was being honored for community service in accordance with his publicity needs. He gas lit all of the women in the home all of our lives. We were more like his servants rather than his granddaughters. My aunt, Darla, was the woman of the house. She was the homemaker. She took care of young children, cooked lots of meals, and paid all of the bills while writing all of the budgets. Darla was a hard core crack user, drug dealer, and prostitute. She collected cans to hoard money for crack in addition to the money she was paid by my great-grandfather to run the household. We lived in what you would call a “classy trap house”.
Why would I call my childhood home a “classy trap house”? We had fine art. We had a piano. The same piano I was classically trained on during my adolescence. We ate Honey Dijon Salmon with Potato Au Gratin as a typical dinner. Henderson was an American Culinary Federation Certified Chef, and he prepared all of our meals until his late 80’s. All of the women, including myself, my mother, and my aunt wore designer clothes, designer handbags, and expensive makeup. In contrast, the house smelled like crack fumes and cigarette smoke. The home was filled with evil spirits that used to bind my mouth, ears, eyes, and legs when I woke up in the morning. I would sometimes wake up being blinded and paralyzed while trying to cry for help. There was constant yelling. Crackheads would peep through the bathroom window. Perverts would visit me when my aunt was too high to notice. They would stand so close to me and stare at my legs. I froze. Some part of me would beg my aunt to lose her high and save me. When I went to bed at night roaches would sleep on my face. Men would sleep with my aunt,and I would pray that they would not come in my room. There was fighting. There was stabbing. There were even a few attempted murders. Every night, I was beaten before I went to bed. I was forced to under eat so money could be saved on groceries for crack. I was forced to overeat as a matter of control.
I am 25 now. It has been four years since I left that environment. It was not until recently that I realized how much that environment has affected me long term. I realize now that I have become guarded. I have become hard. I have lost my femininity. I have been afraid to show skin. I have been afraid to socialize. I have been living in a bubble. I have been terrified to let anyone get close to me and know my most intimate thoughts. Secrecy became a survival skill. In the matter of dating, I emasculated every man that has come my way. I would enjoy hurting men’s feelings because I believed that men were not capable of loving someone. My heart was filled with pain. I was broken. My mind was altered. I hid behind bible verses and church pews. For a very long time, I was just grateful to have the freedom to be within the church walls. I found peace in ministry. Only when I performed a ministry task, I felt safe being kind to others. I have been afraid of children. Their innocence and gentleness intimidated me. I was afraid to hold an infant child. Fear would overcome me with flashbacks of my childhood, and I would give them back to their mothers. Anything I perceived as feminine seemed like an open door to be hurt. I was afraid to wear dresses out of fear of getting raped. I was afraid to be attractive in public. All I have ever concerned myself with was preserving my own life. It has not been until recent years that I have stopped living in fear, and let down my guard little by little.
I have one person in my corner that I can truly call my best friend. She told me one day that overcoming my past is my responsibility. Taming my fear is something I can change. Thus arose the question, how are you using your power? Power is defined as the ability to influence or change something. Strength has become second nature, but for the first time in my life I see that strength can become crippling when used improperly. Recovering from domestic violence is a process. It is not overnight. I have reached a point in my life where I am not afraid to wear fuzzy slippers and sun dresses. I can play with children. When it comes to dating, I am trying to become more open. I dream of being happily married with children. My best friend has taken the liberty to help me get my feet wet in receiving that blessing. We have begun the process of mingling with men just to get rid of my fears. My hopes are to achieve balance. I am content with being single, but I do not want to deprive myself of a healthy relationship with a man. This is a new experience for me. I am trying to move by faith, instead of timidity. The bible says, God does not give us the spirit of fear or timidity, but of POWER, LOVE, AND SELF-DISCIPLINE(or in other translations: power, love, and a sound mind)(Reference 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)(NKJV)) I do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. I do not believe that I was born into the family I was born in by accident. I do not believe my upbringing has been absent of God’s presence. I do not think that my life has not been filtered without God’s touch. Instead my past motivates me to live my purpose, and turn everything I have survived into an asset.