When I was younger, I remember the feeling of having so much to do. Schoolwork, homework and chores. It all seemed like such a burden and didn’t make that much sense to me at the time. My mother was not in anyway someone that made our life hard. No, we didn’t have money, but we never did so we didn’t really miss it. But she always did what she had to do in order to have what we needed. Sometimes the lights would get shut off and we’d have to “float” a check until her payday. Funny, there’s no way to “float” a check in today’s highly electronic world. If we couldn’t do that, there would have been days that we didn’t have food in the house because the ends did not always come together. I will say, she always gave to us kids first and we never knew what she went without.
When my father was still alive, he passed when I was seven, he was different than she was to us. I don’t have many memories of him but what I do have mostly come from the stories she told me. He drove a long haul truck in his younger years, that’s how he met my mother. My uncle, who also drove a truck, brought him home and they met. Nine years difference and my mother was still in school at the time. But her step-mother wanted her out of the house and didn’t care how she did it. So my mother left school before graduating in order to marry my father. She stayed there for the birth of her first two children and then his job took him to the state we are now.
She worked a waitress job for a while before my father moved us again, just a bit north but in the same state. Her sister had moved down due to her husbands’ job and this is how we came to find where we are now. There were a few temporary places before here but at least in the same city. I was born here as were the last five of the children.
My mother never let on just how much she struggled to keep us fed and clothed. Many times she alone didn’t have shoes. I think my father liked it that way because he knew she wouldn’t go anywhere without shoes. She told me that she began to resent him for how he treated her and us kids. She told me of how he would eat steak while us kids had hot dogs and it wasn’t because of money at that time. Times of when he would go out on the road and she would only have a bottle of ketchup in the refrigerator.
One of my fondest memories is of everyone, except my father, sitting around an old fondue pot while we balled up pieces of bread to dunk in tomato soup. It was so much fun but none of us children realized that mom wasn’t eating. She later told me that it was because she only had one can of soup and one loaf of bread to feed all seven of us kids. She sacrificed everything for us and we were none the wiser. As we grew up, we could see just how much she worked in the house and just how much he was gone. We had fresh sheets on our bed every day when we came home from school and clean pajamas too. Dinner would be either in the oven or it was something simple like macaroni and cheese with hot dog pennies.
Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, we never knew it for a long time. I found out just how much we didn’t have after the passing of my father. I remember a school teacher who thought she was helping, although never did the right things the right ways, took up a collection of clothes for us at school. She told the other children who it was for and why. This was my education on the cruelty of other children. I fell in love with a little purse that was in the box, so much that I took to school. I ended up throwing it away because my only memory of that is of Margaret teasing me, saying that she had given me that purse because we were poor. I remember Sanora getting really close to my face and asking why we buried my father in our backyard. No, we did not bury him there but instead sent him to my mothers home state and buried him beside her mother. But to this day I still see her in my face with her braids in her hair and plastic bow clips on the bottom. Every few years we tend to pass each other and she seems to make it a point to say hi to me. She uses my formal name so she was never a friend after what she did but I like to think that she tries so hard because she too also remembers what she did. She’s never apologized but I like to think she knows.
School never got any easier for me, I hated it. I never ran into situations where teachers would stand up for me. There were nice people working there and I did have a nice English teacher in high school but there was also a math teacher that teased me and he was the final straw. I walked out of his classroom in tears and never went back. Later I would get my GED, never had to study for it, just simply took the test and passed. I knew I was smart but no one else believed in me nor stood up for me. The bullying from other classmates was one thing but when teachers joined in, I stood no chance.
If I could go back, I would try to transfer schools but back then it would probably have been impossible as bullying didn’t exist to them. Mom wasn’t happy with my decision and she didn’t know everything that had happened; she knew some just not all. I did my best to pick up and move on, just like she did.
I wish I could go back to this time and be the strong person that I know I can be now. They wouldn’t stand a chance because I would be able to stand up for myself. I have two nieces that are teachers now and I know that they would never treat a child like I was treated. I’ve never told them what I went through but thinking about it, maybe it’s a good idea so that they can see things from another perspective.
We’ve passed on the tradition of macaroni and cheese with hot dog pennies, also of bean sandwiches (we’ll get to that later). But the struggle that my mother went through, I just don’t think they understand it all and I wish they did. It tends to make someone humble when they know that someone else sacrificed their own life for yours. That is the ultimate sign of love and devotion, oh how I miss her.