Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.

FIGHT THE STIGMA!

FIGHT THE STIGMA!
Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Sep 27, 2010

A British Housing Project - Conclusion



The residents of Corby Commons, a social housing project, circulated a petition to get rid of the gypsy family who parked their caravan in a field across the way.  Mom said, “I had tea with the gypsy woman again.”
“Did you warn her?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mom said, “They’re leaving before things get worse.”
“They’re not going to fight it?”
Mom shook her head.  “The gypsy told me it happens wherever they go.  They stay until they’re told to leave then move on to the next town.”
“That’s awful,” I said, “They aren’t welcome anywhere.”
“No,” my mother replied, “It’s the saddest thing.” Mom showed me something the gypsy left behind.  ”Look.  As a goodbye gift she gave me these figurines to scare away evil spirits.”  I picked them up.  There were three of them, hand-carved out of wood.  They had strange gargoyle faces and served to guard our household against bad things, so that only good may come to our family.  Mom got misty-eyed.   “The gypsy said she would never forget the American woman who was kind to her,” she added.
The next morning, I resolved to tell my friends that I lived in social housing.  But I needed luck.  I took one of the gargoyle figurines from the shelf and put it in my pocket just in case it worked and headed off to school.  At lunch time I sat at a table with three of my friends – Emma, Ann and Mary.  “I’ve got something to tell you,” I said to them as I clutched the figurine in my pocket for courage, “I haven’t been honest with you.”  I could feel my face become flushed with embarrassment as I confessed that my family was not rich after all, as I had led them to believe.  “The truth is my parents are on a fixed income and we live in social housing,” I said.
There was an awkward moment when they looked dumbfounded then they asked me why I lied.  I explained that I did it to keep their friendship, though it appeared I might lose it anyway.  I couldn’t tell them where I really lived, I said, because of something that happened back in America.  
I went on with my story.  My family lived in Liddonfield Housing Project in Philadelphia.  When we moved into a home of our own, the stigma of public housing followed us.  Our new neighbors thought we’d bring down the neighborhood.  They made it clear we were unwelcome.   For the next eight years we endured their disapproving looks and snide remarks, all because of where we came from.  So, that is why I did what I did, I explained.  “I’m so sorry,” I told them, “I hope that you can forgive me.”
Emma was the first to speak up.   “We shouldn’t have asked you if you were rich,” she said, “That was wrong, but we just assumed it.”
“Yes,” said Mary, “We’ve always heard that Americans are wealthy.  How were we to know?”
“It’s not your fault,” I said, “It’s mine.”  I couldn’t eat my lunch.  “Well, I guess you don’t want to be my friends anymore, so I’ll be going,” I told them.  I got up to leave.
“Wait,” replied Ann, “We still like you.  It doesn’t matter where you live or that you’re not rich.”
It was the most wonderful thing anyone ever said to me.  “You mean it?”
“Of course, we mean it,” Emma replied, “Now sit down and eat your lunch.”  I sat down and no more was said about it.  I felt like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders.  They were the best friends that anyone could have.
After school let out, I got off the bus and looked over at the field.  The caravan was gone.  There was an empty space where it used to be and I felt a twinge of sorrow.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out the figurine.  It had kept the bad away, just like the gypsy said it would.  Only good could come to me now, because the gypsy willed it.

2 comments:

  1. You moved from Liddonfield to England? Your a brave and kind person! I have always wanted to move to Britain but am too afraid to fly. Can you imagine what Liddonfield would be like today? I don't understand the thinking of some folks and completely understand why you feel the way you do about things. It took a lot of courage to post all these stories and I reckon it helped you in some way, purging all the wrongs and mistreatments. I myself raised a daughter in housing and she turned out to be a fine person who completed college and graduated suma cum laude! Better than a lot of rich, entitled kids! What she defined her sense of self esteem with is sad though, it knocked a lot of the stuffing out of her growing up "different" than all the others who were middle class. I became divorced and disabled never able to financially recover and it did define her for some time. Thank God for common sense, right? It keeps you from letting others impose upon you, try to define who you are as a person by where you came from. When people talk to you that you have not grown up with I bet they think your awesome! See, it did not define your whole life, you moved on.

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    1. First, let me congratulate you and your daughter on her graduating suma cum laude! She must be a very intelligent and determined person to do so despite the obstacles she faced. She is a great role model for everyone whose life she touches. You are also very perceptive to pick up on the fact that writing about my childhood in Liddonfield and my rocky transition from the projects to the mainstream community in Upper Holmesburg began as way to purge myself of it and give it closure. At first, I simply put up a few pictures as a small tribute to Liddonfield. But then, it evolved into something much bigger. I realized I was helping people understand how public housing has effected their lives, the quality of life in their neighborhood and so on. Thanks for you lovely comment.!

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