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THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET
We did not always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keller. Before Keller it was Paulina, and before that I can’t remember. But what I remember most was moving a lot. Each time it seemed there’d be one more of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six – Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my sister Nenny, and me.
The house on Mango Street is ours and we don’t have to pay rent to anybody, or share the yard with the people downstairs, or be careful not to make too much noise and there isn’t a landlord banging on the ceiling with a broom. But even so, it’s not the house we’d thought we’d get.
Our parents always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn’t have to move each year. Our house would be white with trees around it and a big yard and grass growing without a fence. It would be within town limits but it would look like a big country house.
And our house would have running water and pipes that worked. And we’d have a basement and at least three bathrooms so when we took a bath we wouldn’t have to tell everybody. This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told us before we went to bed.
But Papa’s tickets were never the lucky ones and the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it at all. It’s small and red with tight little steps in front and windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath. And the house has only one bathroom, very small.
Once, when we were living on Loomis, a teacher from my school passed by and saw me playing outside.
‘Where do you live?’ she asked.
‘There,’ I said, pointing up to the third floor.
‘You live there?’
There. I had to look to where she pointed – the third floor, with the paint peeling, and the wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out. You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded.
I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. ‘For the time being,’ Mama said. ‘Temporary,’ said Papa. But I’ve stopped really counting on it. I know how those things go.
adapted from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros