SBS 301 Cultural Diversity         Fall 2001        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Chantelle Fowler
Experiences That Determine One’s Overall Strength

When I was a child at 5 years old I knew my life was different from others when I witnessed my stepfather getting into a violent fight with my mom.He physically abused her and then ripped the phone out of the wall and took a baseball bat to the car, threatening her.Of course, we left the next morning while he was away at work.We packed up all of our things in Phoenix and moved to go live with our adopted Grandparents in Prescott.They were foster parents for troubled teens.I remember always watching the foster boys playing ping ? pong and pool. 

It was not until I was about 8 or 9 years old, that I realized how different I was.I realized that we were not like the rich people, we were not upper class.When I was 7 years old, we were able to get a place of our own.So it was my mom, sister, brother and I.Yet, everyone else that I knew had both a mother and a father.Everyone else I knew did not have to go through the steps of going to the D.E.S. / A.F.D.C. offices to receive welfare checks in order to survive.I remember going to pick up the food boxes; this was part of the social welfare system.The food boxes did not contain very good food, but it did seem to contain all of the nutrients a person needed.It always made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed because I knew that none of my classmates lived the way I did.My Grandparents always helped us out, but I always wondered what it would be like to live what I thought was a ‘normal’ life without the constant struggling.

I always tend to wonder what it would be like if I had stayed married to Greg?Should Greg and I have tried to stay together? I wish he had goals.Would I have been better off?At least I can say that I can do what I want, when I want, without having to always ask the other half.I know it must be hard on Christine and Christopher.Especially Christopher, he never had another male companion around, yet Grandpa did take on the place of a father for Christopher.Greg could have at least visited his children.

I wonder what ever happened to Chantelle’s father? He never even knew her.I know it must be hard for her to know that her father could be out there somewhere, yet won’t even consider the option of acknowledging that he has a daughter.I know it is really hard on her to deal with her disability and to try to fit in with the other children when they tease her.I wonder if I had kept her in a Christian school, if people would have treated her better, but I could not afford it.If only she would have let me home school her.Maybe if I could go back in time to try to change things to make them better.

Also, during this time I was a small child trying to fit in with the other kids at school because I looked different.I looked different because a car hit me when I was four years old.It always bothered me that I looked different, walked differently, had ran differently and I was bigger than everyone else and how I wished that I could play on the monkey bars like the other kids.

After being hit by a car, I spent six weeks in a coma.After coming out of the coma, I literally had to learn how to walk and talk all over again, like a baby.Due to the accident, I am left with a lifelong limp and my right hand is physically damaged.However, when I went to kindergarten, I learned how cruel kids truly can be, even at a Christian school.I learned the cruelties of their gaze and jokes throughout my life. Throughout all of my life I have tried to gain the approval of everyone around me, because I was considered different.All I ever wanted was to be accepted.Now, I know I should have just been happy with myself, for the fact that I was alive, but I was not.It has been hard, but I consider myself a survivor.

In the meanwhile, I spent much of my childhood living without a father and learning to cope with a disability. My stepfather, who was my sister and brother’s father, never came to visit us.He hardly ever paid his dues of child support.I became so tired of always going to the D.E.S. / A.F.D.C. offices to fill out the paperwork. I remember when I was a child how my mom would take us to the baby-sitter’s house every morning, before she went to work.I remember watching Bozo the Clown every morning and sitting in our babysitter’s van, squeezed in with her children.

However, usually our Grandparents would take care of us when my mom had to go to the D.E.S. offices or my Aunt was there also to baby-sit us after she had moved in with us. But, I knew I was never a little rich kid.

I look back now and it is not as if I had a bad childhood.Considering that my mom was a single parent, we always lived in a nice home.Even though I would usually have to share a room with my sister or my mom, we always had a roof over our heads and food in the refrigerator.Someway or another there was always some mode of transportation.At one point in time, my mom owned her own restaurant.It is not as if my mom has ever been lazy. I look back now and I am able to understand.I mean, I am not angry with my mom.However, I am angry with my father and my stepfather.

The significance about this incident in my life is the fact that I am so thankful for what I have, I am thankful for the kind of family I have and I am thankful to be alive.I might have gone through many hardships when I was a child and continue to have an everlasting hardship from the car accident, I might have had to learn things through working for them, but that has only made me become a better person.

Since I had to undergo hardships throughout my life, I can help people who experience hardships in their lives.I am not one of those little rich kids who do not experience anything and who always get their way with everything.I am not somebody who does not know what it is like to be considered an outsider.I believe experiences make a person who they are and it is how a person deals with those experiences that determines their overall strength.

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