Friday, September 20, 2013

Habits of Poverty

I feel guilty describing my early childhood as impoverished. I always had food, clothes, a warm bed, a clean home. In fact, for a good chunk of my childhood I attended private schools. No sign of poverty there, right?

The fact is, poverty has little to do with what clothes you wear or the material accoutrements that accompany your public persona.

My dining room furnishings consisted of two nylon folding chairs and a small black and white TV on top of a heavy wood dining table we got at a rummage sale. The curtains were made of bed sheets - although my mom sewed them so beautifully you would have no idea. And food, though always available, was a little interesting. Many nights, especially during the time when my mom was unemployed, we ate meals made mostly of filler. I remember anxiously measuring the half-cups of soup that would pair up with our half-sandwiches wondering if mine would be the 'bigger half'. It always was.

As a part of this living, I learned the habits of poverty. Don't ask for extra. Don't expect much. Those things are for other people. We don't have one of those. You can't have one of those. Don't waste! Of course, those admonitions are some part of most people's lives, but in the case of a person with what my mom would call 'Depression Era Mentality' the effects go much deeper than they do for the average person.

So this morning I went to dry my hair after a shower. There was a towel hanging that was still damp from yesterday's use and I went to put that around me thinking, 'don't waste another clean towel just to dry your hair'. And then it occurred to me that I might like to have a fresh, clean towel all to myself. I battled myself, dripping hair making a mess on the floor until finally, the indulgent me grabbed a clean, white towel and wrapped it victoriously around my head.

Then I went to the kitchen to make a cup
of coffee and saw that someone had left a half-pastry in a container that wasn't sealed properly. I don't even like pastries and this one was dry and crumbly. What I really wanted for breakfast was toast with jam. I ate the pastry. No sense wasting.

1 comment:

  1. 1. That's a lot of hair to be battling in the AM!
    2. My mom made us some shorts out of old curtains so I guess it comes full circle.
    3. She worked at the deli counter of the A&P while putting us through school and herself through RN school. We ate a LOT of baloney in those days: sandwiches, fried with eggs, tossed into salads (yes, in salads). It never occurred to me until I was older and heard people talk about baloney - that we were struggling with those bottom rings of the ladder.
    4. To this day I still like a nice fried baloney sandwich. Shhhhhh...