And, in many ways we did. There was always an abundant summer garden that prepared us for winter as well as home grown beef, pork and chicken. Mama always had enough dollars for a fabric sale in order to make our dresses and every two years, Daddy bought a new Hart, Schaffner and Marx suit from the nice men’s store on the town square.
We lived in a solid, little house with three bedrooms and one tiny bathroom and there was never a worry over paying the light bill before the power was cut off. Our meager bills were paid on time. When I was seven, we got a second hand color TV. When I was 10, we got a new one with a remote control and that was a big deal because I no longer had to get up and down to turn the channels for Daddy. Yet, we did still have to use the antenna gizmo on top of the set which would turn the antenna until each station came in clearly. I can still hear the buzzing mummer as it turned. This was a precise science.
“Too far,” Daddy would say. “Turn it back a bit.”
Mama would always say that I had been a gift to them, born long after their other children. “You kept us young,” she would say.
And I kept the TV turned and the antenna lined up, too. Otherwise, Daddy would have been up and down from his recliner a lot. In that way, I was truly a blessing to him.
One night when I was in the second grade, I was pulling on my pajamas after laying out my clothes for the next day. Mama stood looking at the tights and dress I had chosen, a simple dress of pink and green speckled double knit which she had sewed up from a scrap of fabric. She fingered it quietly then asked, “Do you have as nice a-clothes as the others in your class?”
I nodded while buttoning my pajama top. “Yes ma’am.”
“Are you sure? Do the other girls wear homemade clothes?”
I shrugged. “Not much.” Then I brightened. “But me and Greg are the only ones in our class who live in a brick house!”
That comment changed the mood. She sat me down on the side of the bed and gave me a talking to about not ever looking down on others for what they did or didn’t have. I am grateful for that lesson and appreciative to have learned early that anything we have on this earth is merely a loan from God, not truly ours to possess.
Having grown up with “enough” made birthdays and Christmas very special in that I would plan for months what I wanted as gifts. My birthday is a month after Christmas so that made the birthday givings a little lean but still there was always something wonderful. I had the joy of anticipation and looking forward to getting something that I would never get through the year like a transistor radio, a pair of jeans or Adidas or a Timex watch. In looking back, that was a splendid way to grow up because I was thrilled when I opened a gift and always deeply, profoundly grateful.
Gratitude, it seems, is being taken for granted these days.
Once when I was in the sixth grade, my birthday gift was a gorgeous Maxi length coat made of beige faux leather and trimmed in fake fur that Mama made. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life and was surprised that the other girls didn’t seem envious or even impressed.
I am grateful for having had enough but more grateful that it was never too much.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.