Tuesday, January 1, 2008

that meme

Based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, PLEASE acknowledge their copyright. BOLD WHICH APPLY TO YOU:

  • Father went to college -- Two quarters on a football scholarship

  • Father finished college

  • Mother went to college

  • Mother finished college

  • Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor

  • Were the same or higher socio-economic class than your high school teachers

  • Had more than 50 books in your childhood home

  • Had more than 500 books in your childhood home

  • Were read children's books by a parent

  • Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 -- I took Clarinet lessons while in grade school, between 4th and 5th grade. The lessons and the instrument were both provided by the school. When I was 14 my mother bought me 6 guitar lessons -- with an option to buy more if I liked it. I went to all six and haven't picked up a guitar since. Both my mother and I desperately wanted me to learn to play piano -- but the cost of a piano even used, and lessons, was more than we could ever get together before I left for college.

  • The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively

  • Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18

  • Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs

  • Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs

  • Went to a private high school

  • Went to summer camp -- I went to a Girl Scout camp twice -- the second time because I got so ill from an ear infection the first (earlier) session of that year, I had to be sent home.

  • Family vacations involved staying at hotels -- we stayed in many motels while I was growing up -- sometimes for vacations but most often while we traveled between various places to live or visiting relatives. My mother's family was all up north, my father's all down south and we made that three day drive a lot when I was a kid. I was in my thirties before I stayed in an honest-to-god hotel in New York while travelling on business.

  • Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 -- it was a mix always. Some hand me downs, some used, some my mother made, some new. My sister and I aren't built the same and she is six years older than I am. We usually got new shoes and one new dress or such for both school and church, but I was hunting for clothes with my mother at garage sales and goodwill until I was aobut 16 [[ then I went by myself. *g*. ]]

  • There was original art in your house when you were a child -- the only original art in our house ever was either on the refrigerator or proudly displayed paint by number sets which all of us loved.

  • You and your family lived in a single family house -- my family always rented houses until the last move back to Georgia. My father was insistent that we kids have a yard to play in. We lived in an apartment when we first moved back for about two years and then ---

  • Your parent(s) owned their own house(s) or apartment before you left home ----my family moved from the apartment to my grandparents house. But my parents didn't buy it. They financed the renovations to make the house suitable for a family of six and built the one bedroom apartment in the back for my grandparents to move into. My father didn't actually come into possession of the house until his parents died. My mother bought her first house in 1989, some five years after she and my father divorced the second time. My older sister and brother both bought houses (a couple of times) before either of my parents actually owned one.

  • You had your own room as a child -- I had my own room once when I was child, when we moved to New York and my younger brother was still a baby. When he was born, a few months before that move, my sister, brother, and I all shared a room. I didn't have my own room again until my sister got married.

  • You had a phone in your room before you turned 18

  • Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course

  • Had your own TV in your room in High School

  • Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

  • Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16

  • Went on a cruise with your family

  • Went on more than one cruise with your family

  • Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up

  • You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family -- I wasn't aware of the exact dollar amount, but I knew heating costs were always a problem and expensive. When we lived up north, most of the heating was by coal oil, and down south by gas, but we were forever being told to wear more clothes if we were cold. Touching the thermostat was absolutely forbidden by anyone but an adult. However, when my mother and Moved into an apartment together after my parents divorced, heating was included. AC wasn't, but my mother was more than happy to keep the apartment toasty warm the four years we were there. Since owning my own house, even in the south, I've become a mirror of my parents. I won't let the roommate touch the thermostat at all. We have dogs and blankets.

  • All the above aside, I still feel I was far more privileged than a good many people. I've spoken before about the fact that my family was poor, but we weren't impoverished. I can't remember ever going hungry or being denied the occasional store bought treat. My mother and grandmother both baked pretty often, and while I was probably never in style clothing-wise, I think that had more to do with the fact that I was never conscious of what the other kids were wearing, or if I was are, thinking they had really bad taste.

    Things we wanted to do, like music lessons or scouting or whatever, my parents -- and my mother especially -- tried to find a way to at least let us try it, knowing her children sometimes had short attention spans. I never got my piano lessons, but I got music lessons, and a uniform and good shoes when I wanted to play basketball. I got a home perm when frizzy hair was in, and my ears pierced when I was 14. (14 was a year of utter indulgence for me, I Realize in retrospect. Mostly, I think because I'd nearly died early in the year from a botched tonsillectomy and because my sister was getting married and was getting a lot of attention. My parents disliked playing favorites for the most part. )

    My parents didn't pay for college for any of us, but all four kids went and graduated, even though my mother never did, and my father only made it through a couple of quarters at Ga. Tech on a football scholarship. I'm not even sure my paternal grandfather graduated from high school, although my paternal grandmother went to the teachers college for a year.

    For good or bad, my father's itinerant ways occasionally gave us the illusion of far more wealth and privilege than we actually had -- summers spent at expensive golf resorts because he got a job as the pro there. Other summers spent on houseboats on Lake Lanier because he made friends with a guy who knew a guy. We won passes to Disney one year because my father was a traveling salesman and he entered every kind of drawing as he traveled. He was certainly willing to listen to a sales pitch to get a new color TV or a weekend at timeshare or to swap labor on a deck build to get us a Commodore computer when computers were exotic and expensive.

    My parents had a knack for making friends with people who had more money and/or privilege than they had -- not out of a mercenary skew to their friendships, but because both of them, above all else, were brought up to think that no one was better than they were simply by economic difference. My father played a mean game of golf and my mother was a proficient bridge player. Through social and church activities they made friendships that lasted until both of them died -- people I still hear from occasionally. So by association I got to go where kids better off than I was got to go, and being poor meant that going out to eat was a rare thing and toys didn't get replaced if we broke them.

    It meant repairing or re-dying clothes if they got torn or stained, and that my mother cut my hair until I was in my teens and then paying the local barber 2 bucks rather than 10 at the salon. It meant used bikes and used cars and other people's boats and homemade birthday cakes. It meant shoeboxes of homemade biscuits and sausage and coolers full of snacks when we traveled, eating our lunch out of the cooler at rest stops and being given a dollar to spend at Stuckey's when we stopped for gas.

    The above list is interesting, and maybe it's my blue-collar background showing, but privilege isn't so much what you have as what you do with what you've got. And by that standard, I had a lot of privilege -- and the utter confidence of my family that I could do anything or be anyone I wanted to be.

    Some days it's easy to forget that.


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