Look at those faces. What you see there is a gang, my gang.
And let’s just get this fact out of the way; I am the one that looks like an understudy for Patrick Swayze’s character in the Outsiders. The only thing missing from my outfit was a pack of cigarettes rolled up in my short sleeve.
I admit we look happy here. But it never was a happy time for us. And there is a difference in that. People can look and be happy around each other but just not live in a happy environment. I honestly do not know what I would have done or how I would have survived without my fellow gang members.
See our oldest sister? See how her arms are around all of us? That is how she was throughout our childhood. She took a lot of the verbal abuse from good ol’ mom and step-pop. She was very protective. Still is. She is probably the most beautiful person I know.
Look at my brother. He was such a cutie. I know he is a grown man now but to me, he will always be that sweet little innocent boy. He could make you laugh in the darkest situations. It was his way of healing; both himself and us.
And then there is me. I just look like I am pissed at the world. And I was. I think I was pissed alot throughout my childhood. We could never really tell anyone around us about how dark and stressful it was at our house, but we had each other.
I know that our childhood could have been worse. It was hard to imagine that at the time but looking back now I see the strength and love that we gave each other. We didn’t always know we were doing it, and we didn’t always appreciate each other the way we should. But we had each other.
Throughout the years, we have grown apart. I think at first, we each just wanted to get away from that house, those people and really, the whole entire town. To truly be able to put it from our minds, we even had to get away from each other. But we are slowly drifting back.
After years of not seeing each other, my brother and I re-connected. I remember really talking with him and going over different memories and instances. It was painful but cathartic. It also showed me just how much I didn’t know or maybe ignored just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it. And then the guilt set in. How did I not see or remember those things happening to him? In my present life, I hold my tongue for no one. I would never allow anyone to treat a child the way any of us were treated. I find myself disappointed in myself as well. If I have that strength now, how could I not have had it then?
I admit it, I have a very scued sense of family. I am not one to accept a family member who is hurtful or judgmental, and quickly forgive solely based on the fact that they are “family.” You have to earn that right. It is more than a name or born-into title. When I look back at our little gang of step-brothers and sisters, and how much the word and meaning of family was defined to us by the fact that we shared the same tormentors, I am proud of how strong we were and how we each turned out to be good, honest and loving men and women. The love that I feel for them is more than just a sisterly love – it is a survivor love.
I know that people say that once you are in a gang, it is difficult to get out of it. In this case, that is not so bad.