I can be abrasive, and when younger, I wore my convictions like a blazing cloak of righteousness. I hope that now, at this vulnerable time in my life, I have become less judgmental and more approachable. I had not wanted this other woman, this mother like me, to feel anything but at ease. Still, there was this chasm between us, of needs and not-needs, and she filled it with her own embarrassed rationales. I smiled and nodded, full of sympathetic head tilts and raised eyebrows. I touched her arm, reassured her with dismissive noises. That would have been me had the recession not hit us so hard and so relentlessly.
So I’m writing this in a café as I extract two rumpled single dollars from my wallet. If I were really just buying a cup of drip coffee, it would be an unjustifiable expense, but since I’m actually paying to use their Wi‑Fi, it’s a bargain. Today our monthly food stamp card is reupped. Armed with $480 for our family of five, we can finally plug the gaps on our refrigerator shelves. No, there’s nothing romantic about being poor—but there is joy in small things. This morning, as I slept for the last precious hour or so before waking, I dreamed of eating bacon, and lo! when I awakened, there was bacon.
And that leads me to this admission: The color and clatter of our chaotic existence now gives me more pleasure than my corporate affluence ever did. There is a joyous jangle to this sort of freedom. My northern European ancestors populated Oklahoma Territory, and my Cherokee relatives, having been relocated against their will, endured the Trail of Tears and joined them. That land, that time and the people who embraced those challenges mark every sinew and synapse of me. It feels like an evolutionary imperative: I just need to concentrate on the map inscribed at a cellular level and summon the strength and capability to lift us up and carry us through these hard years.
Tomorrow will be a day like any other. I will pull the children out of their beds, as pink and helpless as mewling kittens. I’ll feed and dress them and cocoon them in a blanket against the early-morning chill. Regardless of the weather, I will buckle them into the bike trailer and head out to their elementary school. Later, I will clean the chicken coop and fill the empty Crock-Pot. I’ll wield my weeding spade and water the fruit trees. I will keep my knees slightly bent so I am ready for movement, my back strong and locked straight, my eyes looking ahead.
CORBYN HIGHTOWER blogs about her recession experiences at shareable.net.
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