I've written before that I've known hard times. I've worked in the fields. I've eaten beans and fried potatoes. I've lived in a house without running water. I've put cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes. I've missed a few meals. However, living that way as a child didn't seem so bad because it was all I knew. It was just the way things were. I didn't question it or wonder why we didn't eat steak. Oh, once in a while I would make comparisons to my friend, who got to drink milk for dinner, but her status was only a few dollars above ours because her dad was a foreman. For the most part we lived in areas where people faced the same daily problems we did. I didn't think about people with "real" money because I didn't know or even see them. We didn't watch much television, didn't even have one most of the time, and we listened to "Gunsmoke" on the radio. Not much of the big world made it's way into mine.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I had dreams. I endured most of my hours and days in the fields by creating elaborate scenarios in my head. I was going to grow up and race horses. I was going to grow up and own a zoo. I was going to grow up and be a movie star. I was going to..., but I had no idea how much any of it would cost. I only knew that when I grew up I would do something other than work in the fields, and life would be better.
And so it is. My life as a teen was much better than my life as a child, at least financially. My parents moved to Caddo, my dad got a regular job and bought my granny's house. My life as an adult has been up and down financially, but much better than my life as a child or a teen. I'm happy and comfortable and generally satisfied with my place in life. What is amusing, and ironic, is that by most standards, I'm still poor.
We know, and everyone else knows, exactly what the rest of the world has because of the vast array of communication devices available to us. The world of the middle class, upper class, rich, and "outrageously rich" is flashed before us on a daily basis. Even my kindergarten students know all about people with big cars and big houses and big boats.They know there is a whole class of people out there who "live the good life". They know they are expected to buy the latest gadget and wear the latest fashions hyped by the latest child star. And they know what they don't have. Yes, they are still accepting of their family lifestyle, as most children are, but they also know, deep down, that someone else has more. And I wonder sometimes if that doesn't damage their outlook on life. Do they feel that someday things will be better? Or are their expectations of "better" so high that they don't feel they'll ever reach that far? I guess we will have to wait a generation to find out.
Of course right now we are hearing all the bad things that are happening. I doubt that the rich are losing sleep at night, but the middle class is feeling some discomfort because of our current economic woes. One thing that my history/genealogy hobby has taught me is that my grandmother was right, "This too shall pass." The financial burdens brought about by the mortgage crisis and the oil crisis and the food crisis and the next "whatever" crisis will pass and there will be more good times... and more bad. Those of us who grew up poor will endure with less pain and anxiety than those who have always had more. But we will survive...unless we don't. My grandmother always tried to point out that there aren't many options in between. If you are alive then you're surviving. God doesn't promise us fame and fortune, only that our needs will be met. We just get confused sometimes about what we truly need.
I'm pinching pennies and looking for bargains at the grocery store just like everyone else. I'm trying not to make extra trips to town. I didn't buy any new spring clothes. We won't be taking a vacation. But I don't see this as the way things will be forever. I hope to buy a new computer before the end of the summer. I hope that next summer we may take a vacation. Nothing is stable, everything changes, even hard times. I guess I've always known that, even as a child.