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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Granieri


I'm listening to Brandi Carlile's memoir, "Broken Horses." Her childhood seems rough and gorgeous, warm and slipshod. She was raised by painfully young parents, sometimes in out-and-out poverty. They moved from place to place, trailer to trailer, for years.

That instability, that constant motion, was my dad's childhood, and I know that maintaining stability was everything to him. Keeping us all together, gathered in the same house all through our childhood years, was a massive achievement, and I'm grateful for what didn't happen.

And yet, I keep returning to the specter of poverty, edges, borders: We were on the edge of losing the house; we were borrowing money, living off the American Express card. That means that I always knew that what we did have was fragile, that it could be blown away, like dandelion spores, at any moment. I knew the worry, the anger, the checks that never arrived, the mudslide feeling against the bills.

I don't wish that we'd moved from town to town, trailer, to trailer. You know, I feel as if the look before the leap is the scariest part----scarier than the leap itself.

We were fortunate, period. But I also don't dismiss this edge: Because these things never came to pass, perhaps my idea of what could have been tends to be more grim than the reality would have been. When you're thrown into the deep and you still, somehow, manage to remain afloat, even if you're sputtering, I wonder: does a confidence develop, a sense that, OK, all this shit was tossed my way, but I survived, so I'm gonna be brave with my life. That's what Cheryl Strayed has said: that, OK, it was rough growing up in poverty, but/and she figured it out, in endless jobs, on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I do not glorify poverty for one second. And yet, I also hold this in my other hand: I know my hyper-vigilence is rooted deep in what almost happened: They almost divorced; we almost lost the house. These almosts hover in the air, they charge the air, they are specters.

And then there's this: Plenty did happen; plenty did go south. And I'm not convinced that it's made me brave.

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