Thursday, April 30, 2015

Times and Trials

I remember my father talking of how times were different when he grew up and the miles he had to walk through snow and rain to school. He and my mother lived through WWII and the Great Depression. And if we whined about wanting something they could not afford in our youth he always said, "You do not know how good you have it."

But I remember the hard times too like when I was sent to the market with two dollars to buy bread and milk and lost it. Dad was away and payday was obviously not until he got home. We only had one car and Dad had it on the road. I was in the third grade and walked to school with Barbara and Janet who lived down the block. My brother was not in school yet and my sister not yet a thought as Dad would say.

That was El Paso, Texas, with its gas refineries spewing sulfur out of the stacks. We lived at the end of the runway of Ft. Bliss. Not my first airbase. But the first where houses were at the end of the runway instead of the side. The jets barely got their wheels up before our house and if they hadn't the house would be toast. The noise was so horrific we would squat on the sidewalk where we had been playing hopscotch and put our hands over our ears. Couldn't do that in the yard because of the goat heads.

That two years we lived there I remember most the crashes of the jets. We would jump on our bikes when we heard the crash and saw the smoke and speed away as if we could do something for the pilots. All the time my father had been with the Air Force and the Reserves I never worried about him crashing until then.

Sometimes it is good to not know everything. But being the oldest child I seldom had that grace. I was the one charged with my mother's secrets when Dad was away, the one responsible for not losing my bother. I heard all the fights at night over money, Mother's concerns I was such a strangling since Roswell, Dad losing again at poker.

Somehow all that didn't seem so good. It got better but it seemed no matter how much Dad made we spend more than we had. The days before credit cards. Gary, my brother, and I saved our allowance, and did odd jobs for the neighbors through much of our time at home, which ever home that was. And we stashed it. The dollars hidden in the encyclopedia seemed need to stave off disaster. If for no other reason than to loan them to Mom if she ran short before payday.

I think if I won the lottery I would stash cash around the house. I used to wonder when we moved if I had remembered where all my secret stashes were. Money makes me nervous because my parents grew up during the depression. Yes, we had it better but we inherited all the fears.

1 comment:

  1. This is sad but also a sign of that particular time. I don't recall rows about money although the salary couldn't have been high for service personnel but I recall rows about other things - it's only in recent years that I came to realize that they were probably a result of post traumatic stress syndrome on my father's part (WWII) and a lack of understanding on my mother's part as she had come from a totally different background. Finding herself in the Far East post war with a man who had been at El Almain with Montgomery fighting Rommel and who was dedicated to his King and country could not have been easy. But they overcame all and made it - very happily until my father fell ill on their 40th Wedding Anniversary and did not recover.

    I remember very clearly my father being attached to the RAF in a Signals Squadron in Singapore, 1958. That was a nightmare for a year because it was a hard drinking, don't give a damn group of men who felt they were invincible. Well, my mother put her foot down and it all ended when one night, having worried all day because my father had not come home, my mother took things into her own hands! What she did was a family story for years afterwards and always caused much laughter for us all, father included. He came home this particular evening afer a binge and when asked where he had been replied, 'to Ceylon and back'. (We were in Singapore). My mother scoffed, raised her hand to push and father in his drunken state, wearing boots, slipped on the highly polished floor, fell to the ground taking a dining chair with him and mother screaming, 'My God I've killed him'. She was hysterical until unknown to me, she saw that he opened one eye and closed it again. She told me to go to the kitchen and get a jug of water which as an obedient 11 year old, I duly did. When I gave it to her, as he was still on the floor, she threw it in his face. He soon moved!! I remember them making it up later in the evening.


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