“I’m so sorry I never introduced you to fancy things like escalators as a child.”
My mother, ladies and gentlemen.
God bless her.
My mother is a woman of selflessness and kindness. This is just her way, her true nature, motherhood is her niche in life. She’s the kind of mom who had ten year old photos in her wallet, who kept fifty pounds of quarters in the bottom of her old purse for gumball machines at the grocery store, who cried during every kind of proud moment we had (baseball games to graduations). She is an emotional woman who bears her heart to the world, boldly trusting. She warmly forgives. She lives with grace.
She’s a woman of the simple things in life.
And she took her children on that path, hand in hand.
There were four of us kids, who shared a single room in a brick house my grandfather built. We were lower class, poor to some, but my mother was quick to show us that money wasn’t everything. We were rich for the love we shared, and the laughter that used to echo across our house. She was a waitress, a receptionist, a daycare provider, heck she even drove a dump truck once. And we ate at the dinner table every night but Fridays, as a family, talking over hotdogs or spaghetti, chicken or kit-made tacos.
She kept frosted animal crackers on top of the fridge, ordered ice cream cones from the Schwan’s man in the summertime, and drank more french vanilla flavored coffee than anyone I have yet to know. She was tanned skin, curly black hair, and warm hugs. My mother gave us a pretty incredible childhood.
My father did too.
But, we were financially struggling. We took one vacation a year, a day trip to Fenwick and Ocean City, to swim in the ocean and play skee ball. Goodness knows how much money my parents spent on that game. We’d have pizza at Tony’s, on the boardwalk, and brush sand off of our shins in the Buick station wagon on the way home.
I still remember the way it sounded, hitting the carpet interior.
I was 8 or so when I rode my first escalator, at the Annapolis mall. My brother and I got in trouble that day, for running up the “down” escalator. The security guard took us to our parents in the food court, and I remember my mother being so embarrassed. I remember my aunt, my mother’s sister, telling her that her kids “didn’t get out much”.
She blamed herself for that, I guess.
She blamed herself for something unnecessary. She thought we were missing out on something, but honestly?
We were living!
We were the barefoot kids in the road in front of the house, playing catch with a worn out baseball, careful not to let it get past us and fall into the storm drain. We were the ones cutting holes in pickle jar lids with the “good” steak knives, catching “lightening bugs”, and showing them off to our mother. We were the ones riding our bikes too fast, falling down too hard, sitting on the edge of the tub trying not to cry as she dabbed the hydrogen peroxide on our scrapes. Some of them would scar, some of them would fade with time.
Most things do.
We were the kids with bruised shins and stitches, laying in the random patches of soft grass that grew in the front yard, avoiding the bumble bee infested clover under a full clothesline in the backyard. We had tan skin from the sunshine, red cheeks in the winter from sledding all day, and my mother claims she has earned every grey hair from us kids.
She worried constantly for us.
Now, she’s a fifty-something grandmother who will talk nonstop about the babies in her life that fill her days with laughter and love. She still has tan skin, and she loves to sit and rock on a front porch that faces a glorious yard of flowers.
And she still apologizes, for not giving us the finer things.
I still can’t understand why.
We had everything.
I was joking with my husband this morning, telling him that I hope no one of extreme importance ever comes to our home. Because I’d be in the middle of folding laundry, listening to 90’s country music, wearing a baggy t-shirt and a pair of shorts with a hole in the thigh.
House shorts, I call them.
I’d offer Ritz crackers and that good Cracker Barrel cheese, not the government kind, on the real plates. Because paper plates aren’t for special guests.
Just friends and family.
Then again, everyone we welcome into our home is a friend.
They’d get to sit on a worn out couch, and they’d get to choose whatever channel they cared for, out of the 10+ we get on a clear day.
No cable here.
And if they stayed long enough, they’d get a good dinner. I’d take out the good meat that’s frozen in the freezer, saved for a rainy day. No ground chuck, no questionable chicken, no wild hog backstrap. Steaks, all the way. And real mashed potatoes, no box powder! Because that’s as fancy as it gets, in this San Antonio apartment.
I might even use an actual gravy ladle for the gravy.
My husband finds this hilarious.
I may be plain, and maybe I’m a little “low class”, but I mean well. And I realize now that my mother was and is the same way. We don’t need material things to flaunt, to make us feel better. We prefer to spend time, not money, on the company of others. Especially those who make us laugh, who make us feel loved, who can understand how we feel.
I may not need to clip coupons anymore, we’re certainly not hurting, but habits die hard. Not much changes, I guess. I’m still hesitant to spend, I still hoard pickle jars (though I’ve never seen a lightening bug here in San Antonio), and I still think there’s something to be said for the lower class folks. They really know how to live. I’ll never forget my roots.
And, I still can’t say I’m a fan of escalators, either.
They kind of scare me.