My First Published Poems: ‘A Family Of Friends’

I will not go into my troubled childhood here; you’ll have to wait for my autobiography. But I’ll suffice it to say there was enough neglect and abuse in the early years that by the time I was 13, I was a runaway, told by a judge that I was a delinquent youth and lived in a variety of “homes” throughout my teen years.

These homes ranged from foster homes, a boarding school for troubled girls, and emergency shelters for runaways. It was at one of these shelters/temporary residential counseling services that I met a group of teens whom I would form a bond with.

We assembled together at a church located next to the shelter The Multiservice Center of Newton, Massachusetts or “Multi” as we called it for short. We would say, “I’ll meet you at the Church.” Though it was a functional church, we didn’t go there for services. It was our hangout spot and we flooded it to the point that any time day or night, you could bet some wayward teen was there.

This book of poems was birthed from our teenage despair and the harshness of our realities. Many of us were sexual abuse victims, some had experienced physical and emotional abuse or neglect. We had turned to drugs, to music, to art, to fantasy, and each other for escape.

The Summer of 82, I was 13-years-old, and had lived at “Multi.” I spent a lot of time at “The Church” and on its grounds. Over that summer we played frisbee, games with pocketknives, developed friendships and romances, paired up in little cliques only to expand them and change members, we smoked pot, dropped acid, took speed, tried mushrooms or whatever altering substance was available.

We drank alcohol, got into fights, had philosophical deep discussions and because the age ranged from about 12 to late twenties, we had our own community of minds.

I still remember many of the conversations I was engaged in at the Church.

We looked like hippies and though it was the eighties, it was our “Summer of Love.”

One of my friends counted the kids hanging at the church in one day. Between the kids who came and left it was over 100.

Yes, the police often frequented “The Church” and did their best to chase us off.

I’m not sure who decided to create the book “A Family Of Friends” but I’m grateful they did. I look back at these early poems and remember where they came from.

I had spoken to other “wayward kids” throughout the years and one had told me that a counselor from another emergency runaway shelter had the book and the kids read it.

I don’t know for sure if that was true and if the book was some sort of project or not. All I know is I have several poems in there.

My poems are on pages 11 (as Charrise  I do not spell my name with two r’s, I didn’t sign the poems and the counselors added my name), 14 (as C.L.), page 16 and page 34.

Here is a picture of myself and some friends standing on the church grounds.

Not everyone who hung out with us and became part of our “family of friends” is still here. Several committed suicides, some died from drug overdoses, some never got past the same emotional trauma we were suffering when we wrote these poems. Some ended up on the streets homeless and never found their way home.

They will always remain in my heart. I think of you all and this very special time in my life often. I am the first one on the left.

A Family of Friends