Thanking my father for groceries once a month when we could afford them.
Listening to my mother-in-law try to relate to my family’s struggles, saying she felt like an abusive mother when she could only afford to get her children Nike sneakers.
Having no idea furniture originated in a store, and not on the side of the road.
Not comprehending why my husband, then-boyfriend became disgruntled if his food wasn’t piping hot. A significant portion of my formative years were spent without a heat source for cooking; I was accustomed to eating cold or lukewarm food routinely.
Listening to my cousins talk of the financial hardships they faced in not being allowed to travel cross-country to music festivals, while they wear their LLBean everything and eat at restaurants daily. Clothes and food were a rarity to us.
Having the neighbors question why my brother & I were wearing winter knit caps while riding our dump-picked bikes. Peddling away quickly and silently, not wanting to mention our mother forced us to wear them because our family couldn’t afford to buy bike helmets.
Seeing my then-boyfriend (now ex) throw away custom-embroidered Asics running shoes because he had run in them for 25 miles and needed new ones. Hearing him talk of his lean childhood, how his father lived by the phrase “everything you need, and some of what you want.” Hiding my threadbare clothes from him, being unable to comprehend that outlook on life. Holding his hand as he freaked out over his bank account reaching a low of $1259, when mine stayed at $0.12 for the last 11 days.
Helping our church make sandwiches for the homeless. Handing out brown sack lunches while my mouth watered.
Expressing to my then-boyfriend (now husband) over cheap takeout how much college finances perpetually stressed me out. Having to run to the bathroom as I burst into tears when he offered to cover me financially before we were married. Feeling ugly at how I surely had to be a burden to him, that he was with me only out of pity. Not listening as he held my hand through tears and told me he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me, and to please let him keep me afloat.
Watching my mother hand-stitch my father’s torn work shirt with thread taken from other garments.
Vomiting from anxiety on a weekly basis, scared the state would reclaim our home.
Being too little at 3 years old to realize my father shoving grocery items up my shirt in the store was theft.
Hand-raising chickens as a food source, becoming inadvertently attached to them, and sobbing when they were butchered by my father.
Wearing threadbare socks for gloves while completing chores outside during winter. Being unable to uncurl my fingers when I finally came inside out of the wind. Identifying the beginning stages of frostbite at eight years old.
Eating birthday cake tainted with soap, because all our food was bought from a damaged-goods sale stored in an old warehouse.
Shivering under thin blankets full of holes because we ran out of firewood for the stove in the middle of winter. Wearing every sweater I owned and still shaking with chills. Waking up to ceiling & walls crumbling and falling down onto me as the house shifted off its foundation from neglect.
Waking up to broken windows and a smashed windshield because some teenagers thought our home was abandoned. Not having the money for repairs. Driving to church as a family with cold winter air ripping through the car, slivers of glass pelting my face.
Telling my then-boyfriend (now husband) he wasn’t allowed to buy me a diamond ring because of its frivolity. Being overwhelmed when he bought me one anyway, and paid extra to custom-design it to last in a life full of manual labor.
Wearing the same boots, year round, for three years as a growing child. Having my smallest toes grow and turn permanently on their side, with the lateral aspect of my feet permanently curled under. Seeing the horrified look on my mother’s face that this problem couldn’t be fixed because we didn’t have money for new shoes.
Believing that Fruit by the Foot would not make me fat if I ate an entire box because God gave it to us through the church, and therefore it could not be bad for me.
“Going on vacation,” my parents claimed, when we actually lived with extended family for 3 months because my dad had gotten laid off and couldn’t afford to pay our electric bill.
Believing that prayer alone would put food on the table. Going to bed hungry as my mother prayed God would fill our stomachs with faith and love.
Resolving as a child to never bear children of my own, because there was no way in hell I ever wanted to subject someone else to these hardships.