The house I grew up in was built by my grandfather and his brothers. There are a lot of things it lacked, like hot water, but I didn’t know I was poor until I was old enough to start going to sleepovers as a pre-teen.

When I was in the 6th grade, we (mom + little sis + me) moved into a really nice apartment. Nice was a relative term considering the amenities my grandparent’s house offered. The apartment had hot water, two bedrooms, and one and a half baths. It was government housing, so everyone around me was poor too.

People tilt their head with a questioning look when I tell them I grew up in the projects. I don’t know what someone that grew up in the projects looks like, but evidently, it’s not me. I think that’s because the projects I grew up in were in a really nice, upper middle class area. I went to safe, great schools, I had teachers that cared, and I received a great education.

While that seems perfect, it does mean that I was confronted daily by my economic situation. Damn near all of my peers had more than me, including my closest friends. My bus ride to school included the poorest and the richest. From trailers that were barely standing to big, new houses by the lake. In a lot of ways, I never really dealt with hood shit until I got older. Let’s fast forward to today…

I bought a house in the hood. I knew it was the hood when I bought it. I even specifically looked for houses in this neighborhood specifically because I knew the area was getting ready to change… However, I don’t think I really understood the dynamic of living in the hood. Or maybe it’s the dynamic of living in the hood by choice.

I tell you all of this as the background to a lot of stories I have about living in the hood, but let’s start with this…

When the weather got warm last year, my grass started to grow quickly. It didn’t take long for my grass to surpass my ankles, and I immediately felt like I was embarrassing the dilapidated houses around me. One day, a neighbor knocked at my door. Let me clarify, I say he’s a neighbor because I’ve seen him in the neighborhood before. My security, aka Pretty Clever, did her job and barked loud enough to sound like multiple dogs. When I opened the door, he was standing in the grass in front of my porch.

“Hey, is your dog put up? Please don’t let her out. Please, please, please.”

“She’s up,” I said.

“So what are you going to do about this grass cause this is getting ridiculous? I can cut it for you.” So we negotiated. He would cut the grass for whatever cash I had on me. Bright red flag. I pushed the flag out of the way because I only had ten dollars, and I figured if he didn’t do a good job, I could afford the loss. The man left and came back a few minutes later, I paid him.

And he proceeded to cut my grass with a mop.

And by cut I mean, he smashed my grass down with the mop head.

I signed up for a lawn service the very next day.