Saturday, December 30, 2006

On an Ordinary Day

I may have mentioned this before, but I grew up … umm …. uhh … ahem …without a whole lot of resources. Okay, we were poor (or working poor) for a great deal of my life.

To summarize tidily and succinctly: When I was born, we were on welfare and lived at my grandmother’s house – my father’s mother, not my mother’s mother because she (my grandmother) wouldn’t speak to my mother because she (my mother) was in a relationship with a Black man. Then we moved to the projects, and my mom got a secretarial job. When I was five, we relocated to Iowa, where my mom got a job at an animal feed company making about $2.00/hour. Shortly, thereafter we moved into a trailer, and I grew up in a variety of trailer parks. Mom got several promotions throughout the 20+ years at the feed company, but she was always a single parent struggling to make sure we had what we needed.

And while that might sound grim – and it is if I told you many of the accompanying stories - the reality is that it’s not my life now and hasn’t been for quite some time. SRH and I are firmly in the middle class, most of our friends are middle class, and the life of eating ketchup sandwiches seems pretty far behind me most days.

But there are some days…days when I have a rip snortin’ good time talking about old times with some of my friends who have also been there. Truly. Because even though living in poverty is hard and degrading, it also produces some killer stories. And when you’re around people who get it, it’s can be really fun discussing family drama, criminality, and going without.

(Unlike being around people who have never been poor, who look at you horrified when you start to name your family’s euphemisms for going to prison. As a side note, this particular post may not be enjoyable to you if a) you’ve never been poor or b) your family dysfunction is of the Boy Scout variety or c) you are a good, decent person with even a little bit of sensitivity in your body.)

But indulge me because I recently had a great night of stories and laughter with a good friend whose family may be as crazy as my own. And while much of our discussion was focused on family drama, the economic factor was never very far below the surface.

These are my favorite quotes from our discussion:

On his way to the police station to turn himself in, my brother got off the bus and robbed a bank. But of course, since he’d taken the bus there, he had to find another bus to get him away from the scene, so the police caught him at the bus stop.”

“Well, his mom has offered to pay for their therapy now that they’re adults, but they’re kind of over it.”

"She sewed him up in a sheet. Beat him up, and then un-sewed the sheet. He was so drunk that the next morning, he just thought he’d been in a fight.”

“This must be a Northeastern Ohio thing: He spends every weekend with his girlfriend, but stays home with his wife during the week. My uncle does that, too!”

“So that they wouldn’t think he’d been involved in a robbery, he told the police that he was a drug dealer.”

“Yeah, my father’s wife is younger than his oldest daughter. Yep, I guess that makes me a little bitter still.”

What quotes have you heard yourself – or someone else - saying that sum up your family’s nuttiness?

(Come on, we all have the stories – it can be from your extended family, your “do over” marriage, or your partner’s family. It can be about broken marriages, broken laws, or broken limbs. Whatever it is, sometimes we just have to laugh our way through the craziness).


lsig said...

Thank you so much for letting me stay! It truly is good to talk to someone who knows.

zingerzapper said...

Let's see, there are so many. I think one of my favorites is, "Come on, everyone knows someone who has committed welfare fraud. Where else do you think these stories come from? Plus, everyone's had a family member in jail. They just don't talk about it." Comment from ZM, "Zinger Zapper, it isn't true. Not everyone knows someone on welfare, and everyone definitely does not have family in jail." Who the Hell knew? I guess I just don't know many of THOSE people.

allrileyedup said...

One day, when Kristi gets rich (see her latest post), I'm going to convince her to fly us all out to her mansion to swim in her money so that you and I can get wasted and trade stories.

Zany Mama said...

It was great to see you AND share stories. I can't believe I get to see you again in March - yay!

That particular exchange is etched in my mind - as a clear example that the fish doesn't see the water she's swimming in. It just is.

Stick with me, kid. We'll pull ourselves up from our poor roots together! :)

That sounds divine.

Anonymous said...

why do i have the distinct feeling that some of those quotes were directed toward me and my family. i am just sad that i was not able to be there and share in on the conversations.


Nadolny said...

1. At Thanksgiving "Uncle Dave, do you wanna see a video of me driving a bus in a demolition Derby? It's painted with a wonderbread motiff."

2. 6 years ago "Uncle Dave, I didn't know pouring gasoline on a fire might make the can explode, really I didn't"

3. Yesterday "Happy New Year! I love you. O and Uncle Dave, I lost mine, will the hospital I was born in fax me a copy of my birth certificate, or do I have to go there to prove I was born?"

4. While my nieces/nephews were learning the game of life rules 6 years ago "This can't be right, it says you have to be married to have kids?"

Ok, I could go on for hours with these, but it's starting to depress me.

belsum said...

Let's just say that a lot of what you wrote mirrors my in-laws. Mr. b, too, has the best stories!