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.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Jul 18, 2011

The Liddonfielders: A Housing Project Diary - Conclusion

by Rosemary Reeves

Conclusion - How to Save a Runaway's Life

If you missed the first twelve parts, click on the links below: 

Most people would call Lincoln High in the seventies far too lax, but laxity is food for the self-motivated and creative ones among us.  The school was chaotic and structured at the same time, a complex dichotomy under which I thrived.  It opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities for the taking.  Within its walls was a vast well of information beyond that which could be learned from books.  There was no better place for someone like me during that permissive era.  The liberal socialization I received at Abraham Lincoln High prepared me for the world and its politics.  The students were not sheltered from controversial and pressing current issues like women’s rights, gun control and racism.  On the contrary, we were challenged to examine such issues in all their intricacy and to discuss them using logic and reason.  We were taught how to think, not what to think.  Passive persuasion was valued.  Using aggressive language to get a point across was a hallmark of the weak-minded.  Since I admired intelligence above all other things and wished to be as intelligent as I possibly could, it occurred to me that my own anger needed to be held in check. 
Fortunately, the anger I had suppressed for years was finally beginning to subside due to this pacifist environment.  For once in my life, I was popular.   Things were even better at home.  Someone in the family told me that when I ran away, Mom did indeed blame Dad for my disappearance.  “It’s all your fault, Jim,” she said, “It’s because of you my little girl ran away!  I’ll never forgive you if anything happens to my baby!  I’ll never speak to you again, you bastard!” she was reported to have said.  When I came home, Dad was different.  He was much more subdued.  He didn’t use threats anymore, toward me or my brother, Kevin.  He was a changed man, almost.  But I never knew if it was guilt that changed him, or fear of losing his wife.  He even offered to paint the house any color I liked.  I chose blue.  Maybe it was his way of apologizing, but he never said he was sorry for mistreating us.  Not to me, nor my brothers and sisters.
In English Literature class, we were given a short story assignment.  My classmates groaned.  They complained that writing a short story of at least ten pages was too hard and rather unreasonable.  But I was excited.  I had read dozens of novels over the years in the basement of my parents’ house on Carwithan Road.  I read each novel twice, once for the pleasure of it and a second time to pick apart the techniques the writer used to create the story.  For a long time, I had been studying the use of dialogue, description, conflict and plot.  I was hoping to discover the secret of how the author took me away from that lonely, dark basement to exotic places in my mind.  Though I never tried to write my own work of fiction, when the assignment was given I thought, “I’m pretty sure I can do that.” 
I wrote a short story about a teenage boy who lived in a fantasy world.  It had a surprise ending.  When the teacher handed it back to me, I had not only gotten an “A” but she had written things in the margin like, “Fantastic!  It gave me chills at the end!”  She wanted to speak to me after class.  When the bell rang and my classmates were gone, she told me I had a gift for writing.  “Have you considered a career as a reporter?” she asked, “Or a novelist?”
“Me, a reporter?” I replied, “You really think I could be a reporter or a novelist?”  She told me I was a natural and suggested that I write for the high school newsletter.  I took her up on it.  I wrote an article about a career exploration course at the school.  When the newsletter was distributed my name was on the cover as one of the contributing writers.
What a thrill it was to see my words in print!  I had never felt such a sense of accomplishment.  Suddenly, all the answers were in front of me.  It only took one adult who cared, one talented teacher to see something in me that no one else did, to point the way, to make me realize I had promise, a special gift, something to offer the world.  She saved my life, for it was at that moment I changed direction from delinquency and certain failure to the pursuit of a goal.  I decided I was going to be a writer. 
I vowed that as the years passed, I would record all that I experienced, all that I saw and all that I learned.  I would use words to describe my adventures.  I would meet unusual and interesting people and capture their stories.  I would use words to convey moments of weakness and triumph throughout my life.  I would use words to bring visibility to the obscure.  I would write about the hardships I endured and the wrongs I committed.  I would write about bitterness and redemption.  I would try to be the voice of the voiceless.  I would make the self-righteous question their morality and the judgmental doubt their own judgment.  I would make that which appears black and white, murky and gray.  I would make sense of confusion and put forks in the road with my words.
And my pen would be a force to be reckoned with.  Nothing would be too shocking, too personal, too painful or too controversial to be written about.  Whether my words be praised or criticized, the world would know that I existed, if only for the chaos and clamor they caused. 


Want to know what dramatic turns their lives have taken since then?  Click on the link below to see more regarding the Liddonfield family you just read about.  These are real people.

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