I grew up on a long narrow stretch called Cherry Street. The street was nothing like its name, there was nothing sweet or fresh about it. The only positive thing about Cherry Street was it was lined with colorful row houses that took the place of trees and grass. A group of developers, sometime in the 1980s, thought it would be a good idea to try and brighten the grey asphalt with some color in hopes to modernize our street. However, it always felt funny and out of place to me that they tried to hide the hardship and the poverty from the very people who live there with such a simple thing as a coat of paint. But, you can't hide what lies beneath for long and soon enough the paint started to peel and Cherry Streets true color came forward.
When I was little, Cherry Street seemed like paradise. I would run outside and dance on the cracks that lined our street and often searched through the trash piles that developed on corners for little treasures. I loved the graffiti that lined the walls, and I would trace my fingers delicately over it, making up stories in my head about the artist who had created it. You learn a lot from living on a street like Cherry. But those were through the innocent eyes of my early youth. By the time I started high school, I began to see what it meant to be different. I learned what it meant to only have a few items of clothes that never seemed quite clean, no money for lunch or school supplies and to avoid conversations about where I actually lived. It was during this time that I started to feel that Cherry Street was more of a prison than a home to me.
My mom was my savior from Cherry Street. She was a beautiful woman when she was younger and was known as the belle of the neighborhood. For as long as I can remember, my mother’s hair was always the same. She wore it in a crazy bun that somehow always looked just right. Her skin was a olive color made darker from years of working as a landscaper for people far from Cherry Street. Her hand were worn and calloused from endless hours of hard work, but somehow they still looked delicate. Her greatest gift was teaching me how to to escape the colorful peeled walls of Cherry Street even before I actually left. She would collect free books from the library, some with pages stuck together, and others with no cover at all. She would read to me every morning flooding my brain with stories that took me far beyond our crowded kitchen and far beyond the limits of my street. These books were the reason I was able to walk down Cherry Street each day to school passing the poverty and despair that trapped so many others. I sat in the same desk at school each day watching my class get smaller and smaller as Cherry Street grew bigger and bigger. The books my mother read to me are the reason why I was able to leave after graduation. But, I never forgot Cherry Street.
I am home now. I am back on the faded but colorful street where I was born. My mother still lives in the same house with the same cramped kitchen. It is almost like time stood still on Cherry Street as the world rushed by. My mother’s bedroom is on the second floor and she lays there now with her head facing toward the window. To me, my mother is still that beautiful woman. However, her hair is now gone and a scarf is wrapped around her head instead of her familiar bun. Her skin has lost some of its color and doesn't glow anymore. But it is still warm and comforting as I lay next to her. Her delicate, frail hand firmly holds mine. I can feel each callus on her hand which remind me of all that she did for me. I want desperately to return the gift she gave to me, so I begin to read. I read every page of my book that was just published. I watch her smile at the parts she recognizes as familiar. I know I am doing now what she did for me so many years ago, I am taking her away from Cherry Street and on a limitless journey with me, even if it is just for a little bit.