POOR ROOTS, RICH STORIES

Money isn’t everything, but it sure makes some things a lot easier. I remember the day I realized my family was poor. It was incredibly unpleasant. My sister and I used to play with pencil crayons, pretending they were dolls and action figures, and it was during one of those games that my sister broke it to me.

“You know we’re poor right?” she said. “That’s why all of our stuff sucks! Normal kids play with real dolls and action figures not pencil crayons.”

I was dumbstruck. Trying to deny her revelation, I said, “Hey, if we’re so poor then why do we have such a big TV? Dad says it’s 60 inches big.” Mind you only 10 inches of it was actual screen, the rest of it was made out of wood and when you turned the knobs it sounded like thunder. We’d actually get in trouble for changing the channels too fast because it would make too much noise. I remember my mother saying, “Don’t change the channels so fast, your father’s sleeping.” What kid these days has to worry about waking their parents because they’re changing the channels too fast?!

Anyway, I figured there was no way we could be poor. All of the houses on our street looked like ours did and there was no way everyone on our street could be poor! That’s exactly what I thought. I thought this until we were invited over to a family friend’s house for dinner who didn’t live on our street. It was there that I learned a difficult truth. We pulled up to this nice house, got out of the car and once we got inside, the kids there asked us if we wanted to watch TV. When we saw their television, my sister said, “See? That’s what a real 60-inch TV is supposed to look like. The 60 inches is supposed to be the screen not the wood around the TV. This TV doesn’t even have any wood.”

“Well, I’ll admit the big screen looks pretty cool,” I said, “but if it doesn’t have any wood, then how are you supposed to hit the TV when it stops working? You’d break this TV if you hit it.” Any good TV should be able to survive a nice swift kick to the side, I always thought. What I didn’t know was that you didn’t need to hit these TVs because they didn’t stop working just because they had been on for 20 minutes. That concept was too crazy for me to believe.

Knowing that you’re poor sucks, but knowing that you’re poor also helps you understand certain things about your life a little bit better.

One day we were getting ready to walk to school and my mother noticed that it was raining really hard outside. We didn’t have any rain coats, but my mother had an idea. You see, being poor meant that sometimes you had to be resourceful, and no one was more resourceful than my mother. It was this resourcefulness, though, that I sometimes really hated.

My mother held up some garbage bags and said, “Here, put these on. They’ll keep you dry.”

“We can’t where those,” I said. “Those are garbage bags.”

“Well, they’ll keep you dry,” she said.

So there we were on our way to school surrounded by cute kids in their brightly-colored raincoats while we wore black Glad garbage bags. I don’t know for sure but I’m fairly positive that the person who came up with the name “Glad” never had to wear these things as raincoats. 

Yup, I was definitely poor but I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. Growing up poor is the basis of all my good stories and to me, my stories are priceless!