Meta; Childhood anecdote

I got an email today from one of the few people who have the address to this site. He offered me a bit of constructive criticism, he iced it over so well that I wasn’t really sure if it was actually criticism at all, but my logic prevailed and I saw his point(s). I have added them to my mental library and I will try to remember them when I start repeat the errors that I knew (even before he pointed out) I was making.

The biggest thing that I took from this email was not something it said, but something it made me remember. I have always had some pretty strong opinions on things and I often would write up rants to post on the free sites that I used to maintain. What would then happen is I would realize that some of the content was too controversial to post on a free site. The difference between the user agreement on a free site and a site like this is monumental. Here as long as I don’t post kiddy porn I am golden, on free sites an image of myself holding a cigarette could get my site banned. So the few rants that I did post were as edited as your average government area 51 files (by me for fear of retribution).

Unfortunately, I do not have anything really worthy of a rant today. What I do have is a story from my childhood that I had not thought about for about 18 years. I am sure it won’t make for captivating reading, but it is a story that I have never told anyone and for some reason I am feeling an urge to write it down. Bear with me.

I have to include a brief intro here which will really do no justice to just what my mother had to overcome to raise us as children:

My parents divorced when I was quite young, either six or seven, and my mother had never had a full time job. This was back in about 1981 I think, and the job-market for divorced mothers was not exactly booming. Minimum wage was set at 3.15 an hour and that was what she was working for when she took her first job. The only house that she could afford was one that was on the farm where she was working, it did not have indoor plumbing. Well, it did have a sink and a shower, but it did not have a toilet, we had to use an outhouse -try that in December in Oregon sometime-.

The divorce agreement between my parents was really pretty simple. She wanted sole custody of the three children, he wanted every material possession. She agreed to those terms because at the time my father was a very abusive alcoholic (later he was just an alcoholic and gave up on the abusing, but at the time I am damn sure it was in my best interest that she agreed to those terms.). Anyway, my father was on temporary disability at the time due to an injury at work, so his child support payments were set at 124 dollars per month for three children. None of this has been exaggerated, we were dirt poor.

Now to the story from my youth.

Where we were living at the time, the school did not have a cafeteria, the kids would either eat packed lunches or go to the restaurant across the street that had the $1.50 a day student special. We, of course, had the sack lunch. The lunch consisted of a sandwich (which was literally two pieces of bread and a single slice of deli-sliced meat), a few corn chips, and some Kool-Aid. That was what we could afford, so that is what we ate, but it often left me feeling really hungry by the end of the day.

I missed the bus home from school one day. We lived about a two hour walk from the school, and it truly seemed to take about 3 weeks when you were actually walking it. I was so hungry by the time I left school that I really thought I might die on the way home (in a 12 year old’s mind a lot of things can be fatal though, where was rhetrospect when I needed it). We didn’t have a phone at the time, and even if we did I didn’t have the dime I would have needed to call.

I began to trudge my way home, after only a few steps I figured I may as well put my jacket into my back-pack since I was certainly not going to be that cold after the two-hour walk. Shortly thereafter, I could see the ‘Bay’s Family Market’ IGA store approaching. My first thought was that I could go in there and see if anyone I recognized was shopping (that was pretty likely with the size of the town, like 4500 people), but I didn’t recognize anyone except for the store clerks. I hung my head down and started to make my way back to the door, when my stomach began to growl, then I passed the display of Tortilla chips. I bet you know where this is going…

I walked for about an hour wearing my jacket and a back-pack with a whole bag of tortilla chips in it. I was so scared that my mom, or the store, or anyone would find out, that I was crying the entire time I walked. About 2/3 of the way home there was an underpass (for water, not cars, only a few feet wide and a few feet high), I went into it and gorged on tortilla chips. I doubt that I even ate 1/3 of the chips, but I was so full that I could not eat another. I curled the top of the bag over, then left them there in that underpass. Feeling full, but very guilty, I managed to make my way home.

My brothers were both there when I arrived. They were both also quite hungry, but had eaten a slice of USDA cheese (which was meant only for sandwiches, not for eating plain -in our house, unfortunately we didn’t have any bread at the time) to sate them. They looked like they felt just as guilty as me, for eating a slice of cheese when they were really hungry (mind you, it is not that mom wanted us to be hungry, but we had nothing, and the little that we did have could be used to make meals, unless the ingredients were eaten prematurely). I wanted to tell them of the bounty of tortilla chips that I had left under the underpass, but I was still so in fear that I would get in trouble that I just went into my room and cried some more.

When mom got home from work, she made some ‘home made bread’ and a soup of nothing but broth and barley. It was enough to sustain us, but it tasted like crap compared to the bounty of chips that I had left there on the underpass. I wanted to tell her about the chips, I wanted us to all be able to eat them, but I knew it was wrong to steal them, and so did mom. I bet that if I had told her what I did she would have made me take that bag back into the store, apologize to the owner, and offer to work off the price of the chips. Then I would likely have been grounded.

Well, this has probably been a bit depressing for anyone who may read/have read it, so I will just say this. It was so much a part of my being to know that taking that bag of chips was wrong that I didn’t even look for them in the underpass when I missed the bus the next day. I have never again seriously thought about stealing anything because that just leads me to thinking about crying in my room when I could as easily offer the forbidden items to my family.

Long story short(er), I think that even though she had to go through a lot to raise us, mom sure did a hell of a job of putting in the morals. She also had a few great quotes; “Just because we are poor doesn’t mean that we are filthy.”, “Poor people aren’t all beggars.”, “Shut up and sit down you deviant little son of a bitch.” – I especially like the last one, since she is really insulting herself…Unless no one knows who my real mother is…

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