MIXING IT UP FOR GOOD HEALTH
By Dee Woods
I was in the third grade. I remember the icy tears flowing down my face as I walked home from school to our apartment in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. It was an especially frigid January afternoon.
The prior week I had misplaced a book, and my parents had to pay for it. Mom sent me to school with a note, a partial payment, and a promise the balance due would be paid weekly. After school, Mrs. H pulled me aside. She was a good teacher that I respected, but that day her words hurt. She held my hand and folded the money back into it, and told me she would pay for the book because she knew we were “poor.”
“Oh no!” I insisted to her. “We’re not poor!”
I couldn’t believe she would say such a thing! How could I explain that to my mom? My walk home that day was colder than the frost on those car windows and those icy tears chilled me even more.
When I finally arrived home, I plopped down on a chair, dropped the money onto the table and very tearfully explained to mom what Mrs. H had said. Mom assured me Mrs. H was mistaken. What she did when she went to school the next day I’ll never know, but after school Mrs. H apologized that she had been mistaken.
Life was pretty good for us. How could anyone think that? Some of my fondest memories were waking in the morning to Howard Miller on the radio, Quaker Oatmeal, waffles, or Cream of Rice with juice. We always came home to a hot lunch. At 5 p.m. sharp we were at the table — or else. “Or else” was a dangerous proposition with my dad. We never challenged his edicts. Dinner was usually a delicious soup with noodles, pork chops or pot roast and liver. That’s not poor. We laughed, we joked, we fought. We were happy. Mom made us the most beautiful clothes. What a seamstress she was. Mom always said, “Attitude is everything.”
Our apartment was several blocks from 63rd and Halsted. We would trek to the Wieboldt’s on 63rd and Green, where they had a huge KiddyLand display. We lingered outside the beautifully decorated store windows, the likes of which I’ve never seen since.
What a life! The movie, “A Christmas Story” was about us to a T — even dad’s language at times. Wieboldt’s always had a Santa (albeit many times with liquor on his breath). We concluded it must be the cold and loneliness of the North Pole that caused him to need that stuff.
I can remember Thanksgiving Day when I would rush in to the wonderful aroma of the roasting turkey, just craving mom’s gravy, mashed potatoes and dressing. Her pineapple upside down cake and apple pie was fab. It was such a happy time.
When I look back, I am certain we would have been considered impoverished by today’s nanny-state standards. We had no phone. It wasn’t the best neighborhood. We rarely had seconds at dinner, but we were always healthy, skinny kids. We rarely saw a doctor.
Actually, we were rich. What made us rich was the love in that house and parents who did all they could with what little they had.
Having no money doesn’t make anyone poor. Poverty can be a state of mind. As things became better and we moved to a nice neighborhood. We learned not to waste and to avoid debt, even if it means you must do without. That’s not poor, that’s the true American spirit. My parents could have taught the politicians!
Recently, someone had the gall to tell me a free phone with 250 free minutes wasn’t enough for the poor. Good night! What has happened to our country? What about the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you.” In America, I don’t believe we really know what genuine poverty means; but we may someday and I doubt we will be prepared for it.
On that first Thanksgiving around 1621 the pilgrims were thanking God they made it through the year (half of the pilgrims had perished the prior year). They were willing to sacrifice comfort and life for freedom. They were grateful to God for having provided such an abundant harvest.
We need to appreciate, respect and protect this nation that our forefathers suffered to hand down to us. Pray with a thankful heart, and pray for this precious nation. Freedom is the key. We really need it. Think about America’s roots — and have a grateful, happy Thanksgiving.