I grew up poor. I didn’t realize how poor we were at the time, but we were poor. It’s probably why I cannot ignore anyone or anything around me that is hungry, or cold, or needs help.
I marvel still in the newness of things. Yesterday I bought 7 new dishcloths from Walmart. Tonight I cut the plastic string tying them all together and looked at them one by one. I’m going to wash them before I use them. As a granddaughter of a professional seamstress, I checked the stitching and frankly am not sure they will all last a long time.
Still they are new. No one else has ever used them before. How many items of clothing did I wear that were hand me downs in my youth? Unless my grandmother made something new for me, it was everything I wore that was a hand me down. My mother even found a used shoe store and sent me there to pick out a pair of shoes when my last used pair was worn out. It was said that the shoes had only been worn by models. I don’t know. I just know the shoes were not brand new.
Newness amazes me still. The car I drive is far from new. It is twenty years old. I love it. I didn’t buy it new. Someone else bought it used and gave it to me. I’ve had it a little over a year. Recently he came by and I wanted him to look at the duct tape I had put on the sun visor. When I got the car, it had black duct tape on that visor. It covered almost the whole thing. It flopped when I put the visor down. It was ugly. I had some NEW duct tape that was pink with a little gray design on it. I spent one afternoon tearing the old ugly tape off and replacing it with the new pink tape. I was suprised at how little was actually needed. My oldest son said that before it looked like any time the tape became loose, someone slapped some more black duct tape over the loose part. Anyway, I found myself saying “Look here . . . see how I fixed the duct tape?” And my son – my middle son, who gave me the car, laughed when he finally figured out what I was trying to show him. “You mean you put new duct tape on it?” “Yes, I did. It looks better.” He just laughed.
I also got out my needle and thread and repaired the rip in the seat cover. I didn’t point that out. I’d been laughed at enough for one day.
That’s something else that goes with poverty. Folks think they can laugh at you and it doesn’t hurt. Poor people aren’t humorous because they want to be. They make do. They do the best they can. The do without. They get too excited over new things. Things like seven new dishcloths that cost very little at Walmart, but that meant a lot to me. I’m not that poor any more, but the feeling of poverty has followed me all my life and new things, no matter how small, make me feel cheerful. Everyone doesn’t always have new things, you know?