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Dirt Poor

As the child of a single mother who worked at a gas station, we never had any money. I grew up in a 2 bedroom mobile unit in Montana. We had one couch that she got in the early 90s on the side of the road. Our beds and mattresses were from Goodwill, we ate on (and reused) plastic plates, and we ate whatever we could get at Walmart or whatever snacks she brought home from the gas station. Whatever other money we had she spent on booze and cigarettes. But the good thing about growing up with nothing is it's easy to run away with nothing.

When she was in the hospital a lawyer talked with me about her estate. I knew she was badly in debt, and I was terrified her debt would transfer to me when she died. Luckily it won't, but she has no estate to speak of. I'm going through all her possessions, and she had plenty of dollar store trinkets, and a ton of hiding spots for booze and cigs around the house. She smoked and drank her way into an early death, and spent all her money for the luxury of it.
cosmicspeck cosmicspeck 22-25, F 1 Response May 4, 2012

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I was dirt poor as a child. We moved often. I was born in 1959. My mother always told me stories of us living in chicken coops, abandoned houses... When I got old enough to remember, the memories were bitter sweet. We lived in Ore., Calif., Tx., Okla., Wash...We were what was called fruit tramps in the 70's. Fruit pickers. We lived in a camp along with several other dirt poor families. The camp consisted of about 10 one room cabins. Two cabins would share an outhouse. We had no running water in the cabins, no fridge. We had one public shower to share among the entire residents of the camp. We picked the contractors fruit for living in the camp. We worked so hard in the fields. Worked from daybreak until around 4 in the afternoon. Back in the 70's there were no child labor laws so we all worked very hard. If we didn't we got our butt's kicked. Our family was a family of 7. So try fitting 5 kids and 2 adults in a one room cabin. It was a very tight fit. My mom and dad would go out to the bars on Fri., Sat., and Sun. nights so what little money was made through the week was spent on their weekends at the bar. We were left at the cabin to care for ourselves. My siblings were 8,9,10 and I was 12, plus I had a sister that was 13 1/2. We knew when mom and dad came home they would have no money at all. Our clothes came from churches, we lived on commodities until food stamps were made available, washed our clothes out in a pan, heated our water on a wood stove. We all had one pair of shoes ea. if we lost a shoe (God forbid) then we worked barefoot. No shampoo, no feminine pads, no tooth paste (usually brushed with baking soda sharing 1 toothbrush), no toilet paper most of the time. We had nothing. When the crops were finished for the season we would go on to the next crop, the next camp and start all over again. My siblings and I worked so hard for nothing. I hated going to school because our clothes were nasty, and we had no friends. I wonder why? But there were other kids in the camps that were just like us so we played with them. We tried to stay clean, take a shower...but we just didn't have the means. My sisters and I would take a shower without any shampoo or soap, and usually dry off with the same dirty towel. How sad! As I got older it got better. Mom got on welfare, food stamps came a long, and we moved into an apartment. Dad played music in bars on the weekend and mom went with him while we stayed home. The churches offered better clothing, we had a laundry mat in the apartment complex so we could do our laundry every so often, and I learned how to shop lift! I stole shoes, shirts, pants, shorts, make up, jewelry, perfume, pads, tampons, shampoo, food... That was the only way that we could get what we needed, and some of what we wanted. I no longer felt dirty, lonely, or lost. I ended up meeting a boy that was just like me. Parents drank all of the time, he stayed hungry in a migrant camp most of his life...We dated for about a year. I was 14. I married him at 15. I moved out of state. I have four adult daughters now. Never has any of my daughters done without. They've always had what they needed, and had a lot of what they didn't need. My husband worked his rear end off putting in hell hours just to keep them in decent clothes...We've been in the same town 35 years, my husband's been at his job for 32 years, the same home for 22 years. I often wonder how my parents could let us suffer the way that we did. Without a doubt they could have been a lot better parents, but they were my parents. I loved them. So you're not alone. There's so many other people out there that share your experience of poverty. I am by no means rich. We still struggle to make ends meet a lot of the time, we don't have a lot of what I wish we could have, but I can tell you that we eat good, our house payment is made every month, and our grandchildren get most of what we can afford to give them. We always have more than enough toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and I have an abundant mound of clean towels, and wash cloths setting in the laundry room waiting to be folded and put away. When I tell my adult daughters stories of my youth they always end up crying and giving me a long hug and lots of kisses. We all usually end up crying around the same time because they see the pain in my eyes and see the humility that I, and my siblings suffered. I wish nothing but the best for you and yours.