Today’s economy is one of the worst since the gas rations of the ’70’s. Mind you, I was just a child then, but I remember my mother and father in their Oldsmobile lining up at the pump on your designated day and waiting for your gas rations. My mother would always tell me about the food rations of the ’40’s and how she would get in trouble for eating sugar sandwiches. For those who don’t know what those are, it is a delicacy that the poor enjoys when there isn’t any cookies or cake, pouring sugar into a fold of bread and eating it.
I always found it ironic that my husband and my mother both enjoyed such things as children. It made me feel spoiled to have known my mother’s baking. However, I do recall going grocery shopping once a month when the Food Stamps came in and my father’s SSI. I remember days of lettuce sandwiches when meat was few and far between.
And I survived just fine. If anything, I was probably healthier in some way than kids today. I played outside, I loved the country air and the horses I grew up around. I had a lot of Barbie dolls that my mother scrimped and saved for to buy me, but TV and such was a privilege. It wasn’t until I got a bit older I really started wanting more, but I fell in love and that was that. My focus was on the high school sweetheart turned husband and the little girl I wanted to give the world.
That ended up being a problem-I wanted her to have all the things I never had as a child and was determined that she was going to get them.
My husband made a good living back then in our 20’s, working in a dairy plant and we had a nice, new car, helped out my Mom and Dad, bought new things, had credit cards. You name it, I could buy it when I wanted to and still had the bills paid. Then I got sick, he lost his job, and we knew hard times all over again.
After many decisions, some good, some bad, moving a lot, and changing jobs (even though it was an excellent one)we weren’t in the position to give our kids all they want and haven’t been able to for many years. We have struggled and now, we own our own property and “house” (it’s a double-wide), but our money goes into making the utility bills each month, food, car payments, insurance (health and car) and other than that, taking care of all of our dogs.
After becoming sick at age 22 and not being able to work, it was a lesson learned in material possessions. I learned, without your health, you have absolutely nothing. I wanted that more than anything else in the world and it wasn’t something I could buy.
Fast forward to now. I sat today in my car waiting for my husband and my daughter’s boyfriend to come out of the pawn shop. a week ago, my oldest doesn’t know it, but my husband pawned his wedding ring when she got married so he could buy her a pair of earrings for her big day and other things. So, when my daughter’s boyfriend decided to part with some odds and ends to get a little extra cash, we took him to the same place. After all, they were taking up precious room they didn’t have and he wasn’t attached to the items anyhow. He wanted to surprise my daughter with new nightgowns for my grandson.
While sitting there I heard my grandson babbling. He had come along for the ride as my daughter needed a shower and some down time as we were taking her to Urgent Care with a horrible cough and cold once we got back home. I knew she had bronchitis. She works so hard and she is always worrying about money, especially considering child support is not always reliable. She has 3 jobs now-yes-3-and I just shake my head at that. No wonder she was sick…
Just as I am thinking of her, a car pulls up beside me and out of it comes a young black woman with 2 children. I just barely see the tops of their heads but she is clutching to her chest something black with cords dangling down. She looks determined and seems to have her mind set only on one thing-getting inside the pawn shop and pawning the item she had.
I watch her as she strides toward the steps. She is heavy set and has trouble, it seems, walking. She clutched that damn thing to her chest as I watched, listening to my grandson babble in his car seat. I couldn’t believe my eyes as she climbs the concrete steps to the landing and stands there, looking around and not really seeing, it seems, as I watch her 2 children start to climb those damn steps.
One barely could lift her leg to climb them. She couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. The other? Well, it was the other child that captured my attention. Tiny little legs and tiny little arms climbed those steps, one at a time, hand over hand as she pulled herself up on each step.
She couldn’t have been more than a little over a year old.
So here the mother stands there clutching that damn black thing with cords and awaits her children, barely allowing them entrance into that pawn shop as she struggles to open the door. Her darling 4 year old helps her, taking the hand of the younger sister and ushering her quickly inside before the door closes. That mother barely gave a backward glance.
I await my husband and daughter’s boyfriend to come out, and instead, not many minutes after, that same mother comes storming out of the pawn shop and rushes to her car. She is still clutching that damn black thing with cords as I watch, holding my breath, as those 2 beautiful children slowly climb down the steps. The “oldest” little girl has hold of her sister’s hand as she makes each step (barely) down to the parking lot where cars would come without a second thought to whether there would be children in the way.
And the mother doesn’t move. She stands at the car, shoving that black thing in and awaiting her children to come to her, not thinking ONCE of their safety. My mouth by now is hanging open in astonishment, but also in reproach as I could not believe this woman was not making a move to watch out for her children’s safety.
She turned briefly, most likely realizing she was being stared at by me behind my glasses that couldn’t hide the frown that burrowed deeply into my brow. I tried to keep my face passive, but it was impossible to do so, listening to my grandson babble and knowing he was safe inside the car.
Not long after, my husband and daughter’s boyfriend come out, his stuff still piled up in his arms. Turned out the pawn shop didn’t want what he had and they told me the story of the young mother who went in with an X-Box 360. She offered a whole $20 for it, while they had many others in the case being sold at a whopping $200.
And all I could think?
Material possessions. That woman cared more about getting that damn game system to safety than her children. She did not want that precious cargo of entertainment ruined, but cared naught for the children so beautiful left behind unattended.
I thought back to me at that age. No matter how much I wanted things, no matter how many times life was hard, my most important thing in my life was always my kids and my family. Once my health deteriorated and we hit hard times, I really wasn’t given any choice but to not want things. I couldn’t afford them.
Then my daughter tells me about her lunch with her boss yesterday. There was a group of children, many who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, carrying i-phones and other ridiculously expensive items. She told her boss she wasn’t going to allow my grandson such things and he had to earn them.
Just what I had taught her and my oldest. You have to earn the things you get in life. It teaches you to be self-sufficient.
I realized then that while at one point in my life, money and “things” seem to preoccupy my thoughts, I have raised my children right to know that their children, not the things they can buy for them, mean so much more than anything else in this world. Maybe this is contradictory to the story of the mother who says her kids aren’t the center of her universe, which, I agree, they shouldn’t be. However, they damn well should be more important than any material possession.
Anything you buy can be replaced. Children cannot.