Middle of the road

Fell asleep at lunch reading a book in the sun on one of the couches in the courtyard at my work building.

Woke up to discover deep recesses of the couch cushions had not dried from the weekend’s rains. Jeans completely soaked through. Good thing I had shorts at work to change into. Shorts aren’t exactly work-friendly but it’s a low-key day and no clients are coming in, so I think I’m ok.

It reminded me of the time my Mom had to get a new battery for whatever beater she was driving back in the early 80s. I was in middle school and my sister was in high school. Because she was broke and always trying to save a buck, she refused to pay the shop’s fee to dispose of the old battery, and put it in the trunk.

Of course, it tipped over, and the acid leaked from the back of the seats into the front and underneath the back seat. But it seemed dry on the surface and it was winter, and everything is wet and cold in the winter so we didn’t think anything of it, as she squired us to each of our schools and dropped us off.

Around the same time at our respective schools, our butt cheeks began to itch, really itch. My sister and I both went to the bathroom to figure out what was wrong and of course discovered that the asses of the jeans were disintegrating and our cheeks were bright red. We both had to go to the office and they called Mom to come get us. My sister, always the smart one, had a sweatshirt or something in her locker and had it tied around her waist when we picked her up. I did not, and went So Fine style until Mom arrived. This was actually right when this movie was out and I remember us laughing about it at the time, because that’s all we could do was laugh. We tried to laugh around a lot of misfortune. I remember something really terrible happening to the sewer line in our front yard and some company came out and dug the entire front yard up. They wanted some big amount of money to continue working on it and my Dad had said he would pay half of it, but then decided not to, and my Mom couldn’t pay them, so they left. We didn’t have any water for a while. We stayed with my aunt a couple of times and I stayed over at friends’ houses. Another time, she couldn’t pay the heat bill and they shut that off. It was the phone another time. She really tried her best, but working as a short order cook and waitress at the L&K or as a receptionist at a forklift company didn’t really pay the bills.

It’s this kind of poor I work every day to try to avoid my kid having to go through. Being generally less well off is fine. Shopping at the Goodwill has been a multi-generational family event for generations. And being frugal is smart, and avoids waste. But I remember the real penny pinching decisions like the battery, and the eventual ramifications. It was funny in a way, but it’s really not funny too. The burning stopped after a while when we got bathed and cleaned up, but it could have been worse.

All the dented cans we ate from because the food was cheaper – that stuff I won’t do.

Standing in line for government food didn’t do much for my self-esteem either.

I just want to avoid the financial cuts that are potentially dangerous or that make him acutely aware of what I’m doing, or that could negatively shape him, as they did me.

I liberated some things because I was pissed about my Mom not being able to buy them. Including groceries, but certainly not limited to groceries. I learned how to get free parking from meters with a popsicle stick and how to trick the washers in my dorm using a letter-sized envelope because those cheats were born of need and a criminal mind. I’m trying to avoid that feeling arising in my kid. I’m trying to balance him understanding that money shouldn’t be wasted and we aren’t going to buy everything he wants all the time with the “we don’t have the money, we’re broke” thing I grew up with, looking for the middle ground. It’s a work in progress, like all aspects of parenting.

I’ve been trying to step up my game about writing and submitting articles in hopes of getting published but so far, no bites. No rejection letters either, which is a bit annoying. At least drop me a postcard and tell me to fuck off, you know? As we enter more “inside all the time” weather, I will be able to focus on this more.

I looked at an online site today where freelancers can apply for work. Someone was offering A DOLLAR for 400-word articles. I mean, seriously, a dollar? I know writing is not lucrative but Jesus Christ, let’s do a little better by content providers than that. I should know better, given I’ve turned down two writing opportunities in the past year where they wanted me to provide content for absolutely nothing but glory. Glory doesn’t get my laundry done or pay my Visa bill, sorry. I’m glorious enough just how I am, thank you.

Feeling my age and my burdens as we go into this fall. The load is heavy. I need to get stronger to carry it better.


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