The American Nightmare

I grew up just outside Boston, Medford (Meffa), in a neighborhood where the houses looked like Archie Bunker’s.  We were pretty much low-income, except when my father hit it big on a football game, and we looted the mall with a vengeance before the well ran dry.  I slept in the same bed as my sister, and we ate from one end of the house to another at the holidays.  Sometimes, my grandmother had to buy our groceries after a weekend of sports’ upsets.

We rented our apartment from Italian immigrants who barely spoke English.  The dad screamed at me one day when I was attempting to make a snowman.  The bottom got too big to push out of the driveway so I listened to him berate me with Italian cursing like stupida (stupid) and disgratiata (disgrace).  There was a boy, my age, that lived upstairs.  He liked to use me as a punching bag every once in a while, not to mention the name calling.  We couldn’t play in the yard; the whole thing was a vegetable garden.  Space for my sister and I was very limited.  We played at the park all day every summer.  Harris Park was our vacation destination.

All of our extended family and friends owned their own homes.  The kids had their own rooms and space to play.  My sister and I watched the American Dream unfold before us; we were spectators.  When my father finally raked in enough dough to buy a house, we moved to north Meffa only to have the house repossessed by the bank after a lengthy losing streak.  Devastating!  My heart went from longing, to ecstatic, to broken by the time I turned eighteen.

I was going to have a home, a yard, and space for my kids to play.  My husband and I bought our first home in Woodstock, GA.  I thought I hit the number: four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a cul-de-sac and neighbors who resembled human beings, but later realized a few of them were aliens from Bizarro World.  Where the Hell did we land this spaceship?  New Hampshire?

Fast forward two houses and three moves later.  We put our kids in a school in Atlanta and decided to move to the big city.  Thank God!  The country was killing me.  We built the dream house. The Beverly Hillbillies loaded up the truck and moved to Buckhead, several bathrooms, karaoke bar, swimming pool, fancy neighbors.  Do you think that stopped me from screaming at the top of my lungs to the kids on the front yard: ” Get in the house. It’s time for suppaah!?”  My neighbors thought Fran Drescher moved in.  Southerners cannot differentiate the accents, BTW.

So did the big house make me happy?  Ha!  Every time something breaks, we drop a fortune.  Yes, you heard me, big bucks.  My husband bought the insurance policy with a very large deductible to save money. Recently, the tree roots suffocated our sewerage pipes, backup in the basement: cha ching!  Lightning hit our yard.  The sound system blew: $$$$.   The roof on our first home that is now  a rental needs replacing: WTF!  My husband needs three teeth implants: ugh!  “Can we get a groupon for your teeth, dear?”

I am ready to ditch it all and move to an apartment.  I want  one kitchen , one living room and Carlton your door man.  I long to walk to the coffee shop and stumble home after a few vodkas at my fav city spots.  I’m anticipating the true American Dream: freedom.

For now, though, it’s the money pit for us.  My kids love the house.  There isn’t a weekend that goes by that I don’t get woken up at four a.m. by kids screaming over ping-pong and insist that they find a bed somewhere, just not my room or my mother’s. I watch my husband every Saturday on the mower (yes, we manicure our own lawn: remember we are the Griswalds) talking out his upcoming week with himself.  How can I take this away from them? After all, we are living the American Dream.

Tell me what’s going on in your life.  I want to hear from you.

Wishing you love, balance and peace!

Amore & Baci (love & kisses),

Just Steph

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18 thoughts on “The American Nightmare

  1. Debbie says:

    Steph, I could hear your voice as I was reading your story and I couldn’t stop laughing. You sure know how to paint a picture and take us all back. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate today and tomorrow. God Bless you.

  2. Chris Maioli says:

    Well written Steph, you really know how to take us back! We’ve led somewhat parallel lives – we both grew up on the numbered streets of Wellington, Medford, having fun at Harris Park & attending the Osgood School. We both moved from Wellington to North Medford & had serious family issues at some point in time in our childhoods. Your sister & I ended up going to the same Catholic high school, Pope John.

    • Just Steph says:

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks so much for your feedback; I love it. Keep it coming and please share my blog. Andrew was in my grade and I went to PJ as well, ’84. You have a sister, Michelle, right? Be on the lookout for my book: “The Only Way is Up!” Thanks for sharing your life with me. I appreciate it. Those were the days! Harris Park #1

    • Just Steph says:

      That’s the point! You don’t need the stuff. The true American Dream is freedom, freedom from clutter and keeping up with the Joneses, not being tied to material goods, including a big house. You are living the dream. You are free to stay or go. Thanks for reading and commenting. Love you!

  3. Brandi says:

    I agree. ‘Stuff’ just gets in the way and doesn’t make you happy! Big houses just provide more space to separate families who are already to removed from each other . The grass really isn’t greener on the other side is it? I enjoyed reading your blog Steph. Thanks to Laura for her Facebook post!

    • Just Steph says:

      Thanks, Brandi for reading and commenting. I love to hear back from people. You can follow my blog by clicking “Follow” in the upper left hand corner when you are on my wordpress.
      I can follow me on Twitter as well @stephpalermo. Keep reading and commenting. Please share as well. See you soon! Love to you.

  4. gena M. says:

    I am blown away at how interesting your story is…’s really appropriate to put a book out! Fascinating! All the accumulated crap over the years is just a distraction, and takes up space in my house. I get depressed thinking of all the things I’ve purchased and then trashed over the years. Also looking at a credit card bill and thinking “how???” Some restraint about “having STUFF” would be a relief! I think food falls into this category also! More food = a distraction from living = unhappiness!

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