Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Growing up poor............

I grew up in a very rural farm community in southwest Tennessee.  My paternal grandparents had bought a farm there in 1942.  After my Paw's death in 1966, Maw divided the land among Daddy and my uncles.  Daddy farmed his acreage and raised hogs, cows, chickens and other assorted species of farm animals. 

We rarely went to 'town' other than to buy groceries when Momma needed something the local country store didn't have or when Daddy needed to take a load of corn to the feed mill to have it ground for cattle feed.  When needed, we made the trip to the county seat.  It was a thrill for me and my sisters to sit in the cab of the pickup as the grain elevator lifted the truck to empty the load of corn into the grinder.  It was like an amusement park ride!

A trip to 'town' was a big affair for us and a somewhat rare occasion.  We put on our best dresses and our school shoes and proudly strutted around like bannie roosters as we made our rounds!  Those are good memories and make me smile just to see us in my mind's eye.

Another favorite memory is the community country store.  It was run by wonderful lady, Mrs. Scott.  She was so elegant and unlike most of the farm women in our community.  She always had her dark raven hair coiffed and wore bright red lipstick and nail polish.  She wore high heels that clicked across the wooden boards and always knew the latest community gossip.  Her dresses were always beautiful and we knew they had come from the large department stores in the 'city'.  As I think about it, she reminded me a lot of Cora Beth Godsey from The Waltons!  Very well dressed and more of a 'city girl' than the other local women.

The country store was wonderful.  They sold gas, groceries, basic clothing items and shoes, household products and had a small health and beauty aids counter.  A large, round 'pot-bellied' stove stood in the back and offered warmth in the winter.  In one of the back corners of the building, a small but well stocked library was located.  It was fabulous! 

There were books of all types, especially children's books.  There was a small table with chairs and a couple of old school desks for us to sit in and browse through the books.  The books were provided by the regional library and could be borrowed as in any other library.  For those of us who loved reading it was pure joy to walk in, sit at the table or in a desk and read the books while deciding which we wanted to borrow for the following week.  I always took the maximum I was allowed.

I spent many happy afternoons sitting in that corner, reading about all the far away places I dreamed of going, about people I longed to meet.  The corner was a little dark and always had a somewhat musky quality in the air, but it was my favorite place to be as a young girl.  In that corner, I could be whomever I wanted to be, go anywhere I wanted to go, have my dreams come true.  In that corner, I developed a love of books that abides today.  I think that's why I haven't been able to commit to buying an eReader.  I just enjoy holding the book in my hands, feeling the texture of the cover.

Then, there was the shopping spree that required nothing more than sitting on the little bank beside the road and waiting for Mr. Howell to bring the mail. Packages from Sears-Roebuck were like rare treasures when Mr. Howell delivered them to our mailbox! They were NEVER allowed to stay in the box; they MUST be removed immediately and taken directly to Momma. Opening those packages was accompanied with squeals of happiness and little girls dancing around the living room holding our new clothes up for all to see! Even the new underwear must be pulled out piece by piece and displayed for everyone to see! I cannot tell you how many times Daddy came in at the end of the day to a fashion show of new underwear, socks, nightgowns and play clothes!

The country store was visited weekly and the 'town' was visited about monthly.  The packages from Sears-Roebuck came about 3-4 times a year.  Once or twice a year, we went into the 'city'!  Oh, what hayseeds we must have looked like when we went into the 'city'!  We always went before Easter because the girls always got a new church dress for Easter.  Momma got one if we could afford it, but the girls always got one!  A new dress and a new pair of summer shoes, usually white sandals.  Oh, and lest we forget, a new pair of white anklets with delicate lace around the cuff!  I know sandals and anklets!  It was Momma's rule, Easter was too early for shoes without socks!

If we could afford it, a second trip to the 'city' came just before school started in the late summer.  The basics would have been ordered from Sears and the shoes would have been purchased in 'town', but the dresses came from the department stores in the 'city'.  If Momma hadn't gotten a new Easter dress, she usually would get a new dress on this trip.  I cannot remember Momma ever having gotten more than one new dress a year until I was 10-12 years old.  In some years, she didn't get a new dress at all.  Daddy's clothing always came from Sears-Roebuck.  He had no time or desire to shop; that never changed!

We didn't have a lot as far as money or possessions were concerned, but we were happy.  Momma and Daddy made sure our needs were met and gave us as much of what we wanted as they could.  We were trained to take care of what we owned.  We had church clothing which came off the minute we arrived home from church.  We had school clothing that came off the minute we walked through the door in the afternoon.  At all other times, we wore play clothes.  We had Sunday shoes, school shoes and flip-flops.
Most of the time, I preferred to go barefoot and would still prefer that but defer to my doctor's direction to wear shoes at all times due to having less than optimal feeling in my feet due to diabetes.

We lived a very simple life.  I complained about it nearly every day of my life until I became old enough to know what a blessed life I had been given.  Our parents loved us completely and made many sacrifices to give us what they could.  We never went hungry or naked and often had the little extras we thought were so important.  We went to church at least three times weekly, said grace before every meal and always sat down at the table as a family for supper every night.  There was no sitting in front of the TV for meals or neglecting chores for games.  Chores were done and done right or there was no TV for you!  As hard as I thought that was, I am so thankful that Momma and Daddy loved us enough to teach us responsibility and respect.

So many times over the years, I have labeled myself as 'growing up poor'.  How wrong I was.  We grew up with riches money cannot buy, with values so often not taught today.  How blessed we were........ and are!  I am so thankful Momma and Daddy taught us the truth of Matthew 6: 19-21.........

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.