This weekend the girls weren’t home. My mom took them for a visit before school starts again. It was just me and my husband. This weekend was mind-numbing. I wasn’t bored so much as just disconnected.
I can’t do anything. There are so many things that I want to go and do. The biggest one is getting back up to my home town and visiting my ancestors.
For a year now, I have been researching my family history in order to write a book about their lives. My recent discoveries about where I come from have been some of the most interesting and exciting pieces of information I have ever encountered. The most exciting bit is finding out that my, many times great grandfather James Clarke, was born a slave. His father was the youngest son of a wealthy merchant family in St. Augustine named George J. F. Clarke. While Clarke was apprenticed to the trading company of Panton Leslie and Company, he met and fell in love with one of their slaves. He would then go on to purchase her freedom and the freedom of the first two of the children she bore him. My grandfather was one of those two children. His parents were married soon after her manumission. Even more exciting was discovering that mine wasn’t the only such family. There was a group of people who had done the same thing. And that’s the story I’m trying to tell.
My ancestors were these amazing people who did even more amazing things. I have spent the last year doing research on my super interesting family. But now I can’t finish it. The records I need to see are located in St. Augustine and Palatka. Palatka is my home town, and it’s a easy hour and a half drive away. St Augustine is about the same distance. If I can’t get to the records in these two places; I can’t finish writing my book.
I also want to get up there to visit their graves. Until last year I had no idea who they even were. They were erased from our family history, and the history of the state, because of their perceived race. It sounds melodramatic, but now that I’ve discovered these new facts, my ancestors haunt me. They beg me to not allow them to be left in those silent and overgrown graves. I want to go and stand before these humble graves and let them know that I hear them. I want to let them know that they aren’t forgotten. That they still matter. I want to let them know that they will not be forgotten as long as I can still draw breath.
Instead, I filled and emptied the water in the same sink full of dishes six times. I know I have to wash them. I know this. But I just can’t bring myself to face them. They never stop coming anyway. There’s always one more dish to wash. One more thing to wipe up. One more thing to fold. One more thing to pick up. And I it’s not like I can avoid these things. I know they have to be done. But it’d be nice if, every now and then, on top of all of the “have to’s” filling up my life, I could get the occasional “want to” fulfilled.
I want to go and let a hollow spot in the earth, holding a hollow corpse, know that it matters. But I have to wash the dishes. But the dishes will never be done anyway.
So why even bother?
This kind of disconnect is common to poverty. Many of us eventually get to a point where we start to question why we’re even bothering to try. We’re always going to fail. We can’t make our bills, we can’t feed our kids, we can’t buy them clothes, we can’t buy cleaning supplies…the list goes on and on. And it never stops.
Other, more financially secure, families get the occasional break by being able to have some kind of regular recreation that takes their mind off of the daily grind. But we don’t get that. We don’t get vacations. We don’t even get the occasional trip to see an overpriced movie. We get nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a few minor things here and there. A lot of us have some kind of entertainment service. It may be TV, or Redbox, or even wifi and Netflix. But these things aren’t the same as being able to simply step away from our grinding, soul crushing, existence.
A trip to the beach or to the park may seem simple enough. But those things actually cost money that we don’t have. I can’t risk using what little gas I have to drive my kids to the beach or to the park.
So we stay home. We remain surrounded by all of the reminders of how little we have and how little we can get.
It’s not long before it starts to smother us. We become angry and depressed. We scramble for those little moments of respite that are so fleeting.
The sink is still full of dishes. Only now we also have four baskets of clean laundry that need folding sitting on the kitchen table too. There’s sand on the floor that needs to be swept. I should probably mop again too. The bathroom needs cleaning. I should sweep the porch. I need to pull up and compost my failed tomato growing experiment. I should clean out my car. I need to wash the bed linens. I have to pay some bills. I have to make something for dinner. I have to go to the store to buy more food that I can’t afford in the first place….
It’s overwhelming. So I disconnect. Instead of doing anything I should be doing, I’ve been playing Skyrim and binge watching crime shows on Netflix….both of which were gifts from friends and family.
I know I should be doing something else.
But hey, at least in Skyrim I can defeat something that’s causing me trouble. I can defeat the monsters in my video game. But the dragons out here can’t be defeated.
So why even bother?