Bell Avenue (Childhood)

I grew up waiting for the day that my father would finally make my mother breathe her last breath.

From the outside looking in you would have never known the horror that existed in my life as a little girl. My parents were living the American dream as a young, black couple in America. We had a beautiful English Tudor home on Bell Avenue in the Bronx. I attended New Rochelle Academy, a private Montessori school. My mother was a nurse. My father, who served in the United States Army, owned his own auto-mechanic’s shop in Mt. Vernon.

Despite the look of success, Bell Avenue was hell on earth for me. I was a lonely little girl who lived in a beautiful home with a daddy who seemed to love me while simultaneously hating my mom, his wife. As a result of my father’s hate for my mother, behind closed doors, I witnessed my dad wreak havoc on my mother’s body during his violent rages. Powerless, all I could do was watch and pray that my dad would at least spare my mother’s life. Following these violent episodes my family would resume our normal routine while trying to ignore any damage done by these violent experiences. As a result, I was left alone to grapple with my feelings of anxiety, anger, and sadness that I had been selected to grow up in hell on earth, otherwise known as Bell Avenue.

I desperately sought some semblance of normalcy by spending as much time as I could at my neighbor’s home. They were a Hispanic family that seemed to have mastered the art of peace, joy, and happiness. While the father went out and worked every day to provide for his family, the mother cared for the house full of energetic kids, me included. As we spent hours in the pool in my neighbor’s backyard during the summer, simply enjoying the opportunity to not have a care in the world, I would daydream about what my life would have been like if I was one of their children. When their father came home after a long day at work and jumped in the pool with us, I wondered, what was the secret to his happiness and wished that my father would take note so that we too could feel some of this joy in our beautiful home.

Unfortunately, my father never found this joy. His abuse continued until my mother escaped and the only memories I keep of my beautiful home on Bell Avenue is that it was hell on earth for me.

I wrote several pieces about my childhood several months ago and just did not feel ready to release them to the world. After a wonderful teen girl empowerment experience coupled with some experiences that led me to dig deep, I decided I was ready to share. Writing always gives me an opportunity to reflect and seek clarity on my thoughts and feelings. I share what I write with the goal of letting another person in the universe know that they are not alone in their journey for peace on earth.

As a woman that witnessed extreme domestic violence when I was a little girl, I am on a continuous journey to heal the damage done. I have come to realize that hiccups during my journey are inevitable. Despite the hiccups I am still crushing it when it comes to peace and happiness.

Thank you mom for giving me permission to share and for making me strong enough to know that despite life’s hiccups, I am still enough!

Much love,


Published by Tonza D. Ruffin

Perfectly Imperfect but VERY PROUD WOMAN, MOM, LAWYER, and AUTHOR, but most importantly...LIFE LOVER! I laugh loud, I work hard, I play hard, I am adventurous, I am curious, I am driven, I have moments of deep insecurity, I am loving, I am vulnerable, I am explosive (not one of my finer qualities), I dance around my house alone, I am an awful perfectionist which makes my insecurity worse, I sing out loud in my car without any concern for whose watching, I have trust issues, I do not live through my children, I no longer try to force my children into the mold that I created so that I could feel validated as a mother, I am a risk-taker, I am guarded in my personal life, I am kind, I am grateful. I am so excited about the rest of my life!

6 thoughts on “Bell Avenue (Childhood)

  1. Funny…. In my household growing up, I/we saw loving parents who hugged and kissed….. Once my youngest sibling was born, we didn’t see that kind of love anymore, as my parents grew apart do to the difference of opinion of the ROLES of the parents. My mother wanted to continue her college education she gave up when my sister and I were born. My father wanted her to stay home with the third kid…. The WOMEN’S ROLE…. in which my mother rejected. She felt empowered to get her college degree that was PROMISED to her, after the first two kids were born…..that is when the loving, caring and kissing disappeared, that my sister and I were used to seeing.

    That had a profound effect on my sister’s & I future relationships; we choose to work hard at relations trying to keep the loving and caring relationships working because we wanted ALL OUR RELATIONSHIPS to work and we worked hard at keeping it together. (not always smart to do)….. Compared to my baby sister who never witness that kind of love….. Thus, she never really worked hard at keeping her boyfriends.

    We didn’t see violence (but we heard a lot of yelling, crying and threats) and witness our broken/dysfunctional family that, seen from the OUTSIDE WORLD, looked HUXTABLE like….. My baby sister slept in my parents room with my mother…. My father slept in my sisters room and I had my OWN ROOM on Bronxwood Ave.

    I believe all families have HIDDEN secrets that have a profound effect on the children that are being raised in the house….. Thanx for sharing and May GOD continue to bless you and yours…..

    1. Russell, Thank you for sharing. I really think we do more damage when we don’t allow ourselves to speak openly about our painful experiences. And as I said, creating an environment that allows people to know that they are not alone is of the utmost importance to me.

  2. You have that 3, 7, 10 year lapse after HS graduation, where you sporadically encounter old schoolmates. It was always interesting to talk shop on where you’d both been, or been up to.
    The most shocking exchanges came between me and peers who grew up , in what I perceived to be, perfect households, when we were kids.
    Keep in mind, I was grading from a low place. My young life was all about separation from my home (Bronx), separation from my Father (also abusive but I still missed him), the humility of food stamps, and irrational child abuse. It didn’t take much for me to assume someone else’s household was perfect. If they had two working adults, and a couple of decent vehicles out front, they were the Huckstables, as far as I was concerned.
    As an adult, I was informed by guys about domestic abuse in their lives and I was shocked. One dude I have known, made it clear, he got what he needed to spill blood in this world, based on nights he spent standing on the other side of a locked door, while his drunk father whupped his Mom’s posterior. It was wild, because this kid seemed to live in Black Camelot! He had all the sneakers, the bomber jackets, and the whole bit. I can’t call it.
    Props to you for overcoming all that, and living a successful life as a leader, not a follower.

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