Friday, July 23, 2010

It's a Matter of Perspective.

Morrison at All Doors Considered has a particularly poignant post today wherein her financials are discouraging, and she doesn't see it getting a lot better, either for her family or for the country.

She especially does not want to be told that there is upside to managing in the current economy.

But while I understand her position, I also disagree with her. Sometimes there IS an upside to deprivation.

For example:

One family Thanksgiving decades ago when my family got together, my sister and I reminisced about the good times we'd had as children. We both agreed as to the best summer of our lives--we were preteens and our parents took us to a local lake nearly every day. We stayed all day, picnicked for lunch and dinner, hung out with other families, learned to water ski (or fall off the skis in my case!) from a neighbor who had a boat, found out all the words to "Louie, Louie" and why they were considered dirty, and, after a month or so, saw our mother venture into the water for the first time. It was the one and only summer I actually got a tan.

Our parents were stunned.

They, too, remembered that summer but their memories were a lot less rosy.

My father was a longshoreman and that summer, he was on strike for three months. There was no Unemployment Compensation and they had little savings. They had to ask my mother's parents for mortgage money. They literally fed us oatmeal, deviled meat (from Abundant Foods, the predecessor to Food Stamps) and hot dogs all summer because it was what they could afford. Their car was paid for, and the lake was nearby, so their one small extravagance was the gas to get there.

My sister and I didn't recall that we had eaten the same cheap foods for lunch and dinner. We just remember going on the picnics and how much fun it was at the lake with our friends and our parents.

My point is that my parents were financially stressed to the max but still they managed to put their free time, if not money, to good use. Growing up in the fifties and sixties, it always appeared to me that my sister and I had a closer relationship to our father than most of our friends had with theirs. I trace it to that magical summer when he was available to us and willing to talk with us on any subject.

Did my parents ever want to repeat that summer? Not in a million years.

Would my sister and I go there again under the same circumstances? In a split second!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I'm not having a hard time with the economy so much as my husband is.

Did your father tell you that summer that he wanted to leave the family? That he met someone else with less strings or attachments? Would you and your sister feel so happy and free and have such happy memories of that summer if your own dad told you those things? That he was tired of busting his butt for you guys and wanted out? That he saw your mother as an old hag, nearing death and that she represented dying to him rather than the other younger woman as youth and a longer life?

My daughters are devastated over all of this. And I am quite positive you and your sister would have been scarred forever if you had witnessed such a decline.

So much for a matter of perspective, eh?

Anonymous said...

Hi Grace,

It is funny how people remember the same day in different ways. My sisters have different memories of how were were raised. They say they grew up "in fear" of our mom. I was the middle child and don't recollect that at all. I remember both of our folks trying really hard to get exactly what we asked for at Christmas. Odd.


Grace. said...

Morrison, I don't pretend that the situation I described is like yours. But, yes, my parents did consider separating, because that way, my SAHM mother could get welfare. Instead, she worked for three weeks picking and grading cranberries which made the family enough money to squeak by until the strike ended. I don't think that job even exists these days.

Anonymous said...

Well, for whatever it's worth, DH just got fired this afternoon. The boss put the female co-worker he was nudging in DH's place. She didn't even bat an eyelash.

Ha ha ha. Is all I can say. And oh yes, there really, really is a God. Thank you, Jesus!

Men can be fools sometimes.

Oh well.

Nicole said...

Grace, I love your posts and your spirit. Thank you for the uplifting story, and the reminder about how important it is to make the best of things even when they're bad, if not for ourselves then for our kids.

Morrison-- I'm sorry your husband is having a bad time with the economy and even more so that he's taking it out on his family. That isn't right.

Florence said...

I think the difference is in age and background. It is quite different to be mid-50s with job prospects extremely limited and nothing on the horizon.
Also, I think it is very different to have worked your butt off to have an affluent life--vacation home, boat, expensive restaurants--and then have it pulled out from under you.

Grace. said...

Ah, Morrison, I hope it all works out--the economy, your personal finances, the marriage, everything. Please take care.

Anonymous said...

I bet you and your sister reminisce about those times with great fondness. That's the best thing about siblings. Who else has the same childhood memories?

Anonymous said...

The middle class in America is really being squeezed hard. It's not my imagination. We're really suffering. Please read this article that Yahoo just released:^DJI,^GSPC,SPY,MCD,WMT,XRT,DIA

The economy is taking a terrible toll on us and I can't be too hard on my husband. He's born the brunt of everything for all of us for a very long time and he's breaking.

MasterPo said...

Morrison - Best of luck.

Living Almost Large said...

Me too. I remember a nice close childhood with my mom. I recall spending a lot of time with my grandmother and being close till today with her.

My mom's take? Busting her behind to provide and missing out on everything. Thus her mom raised me, but she worked to put food on the table for all 4 of us.

Donna Freedman said...

Looking back, I realize that my parents struggled financially. They were married right after high school and had four kids in the next five years.
We were too little to realize it, though, and pretty much everybody we knew was financially squeezed, too.
Those occasional trips to a nearby pond or a picnic trip to a lake about half an hour's drive away -- paradise! I now wonder if my mom wasn't sitting there wondering how she was going to pay for groceries that week, or whether her last pair of stockings would last her until payday.

Did it MY way said...

Trying times bring out the best and the worst in families. The ones strong in spirit, and love survive.

It still amazes me on how little it takes to have an enjoyable life. I am truely blessed.

See Ya.

SaralehB said...

One of my fondest memories of childhood was going for Sunday drives. There wasn't much extra money to spend to say the least but we'd get into the car and just drive around the countryside ... usually singing in 3-part harmony.

That said I've lived through what worrying about money - in a serious way not in a fewer vacations abroad way - can do to a relationship. It's really toxic when you combine the stress of wondering which bill to pay and what to hold off on and hope they won't disconnect you and the feeling of humiliation that one can't support a family. I've been there myself and it takes enormous courage to get through it; courage that you might be lucky enough to have or not.

My parents lived through really hard financial times and I think in the end that helped prepared me for the same.

As for the behaviour of men ... well, I just won't even comment. Suffice it to say that I am often overhead mumbling "well, I guess we can't expect them to be women!"

Anonymous said...

When you're in the midst of disaster, there is no positive. The positive only appears in hindsight. There is a lesson, or a million, to be learned in every tragedy. It is just nearly impossible to do so when you're wrapped in stress, heartache, etc. I understand Morrison's position right now, but I also am sure that there will be an upside. When? I have no idea, but it will be there.
When my husband and I separated last year I couldn't imagine happiness, confidence, security, peace. It's all mine now and on my terms. While I would never wish separation and/or divorce on anyone I'm grateful I'm going through it. I have learned more about myself in the past year than the past ten.

MEG said...

Grace I think the key to your story is that even in the midst of financial hardship you don't necessarily have to be suffering. Happiness and family and adventure can still be found and treasured.

It's also important to remember how much parents can influence kids' experiences and memories - which form the basis of their outlook for the rest of their lives. Yours put on a happy face and did what they had to do and shielded you from the fights and tears and worries they may have been having about money.

It sounds like Morrison isn't in that kind of situation, unfortunately. Hang in there! And for what it's worth, it sounds to me like your road to healing might begin with ridding yourself of your husband and his toxicity...that he would say those things to you is bad enough, but expressing that kind of sentiment to your kids is abuse.

Janette said...

My family was the other end of the stick. We always had plenty of money (but I do remember my mother and father fighting about clothing money for the five kids). We went on great vacations.
What we did not have is a close family. Each sib is a stranger to the other. Every member is out for themselves. I worked hard to make sure that my two got more of us and much less of " the money will give you what you want."
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is one that I will relate to my daughter and son in law as they struggle to find any sort of job. They live with us now- and I know it is hard.
BUT- I do get to spend LOADS of time playing trikes and trains with my grandson. Maybe he will remember these days in your way!