I recently read this quote from the editor, author, and playwright Beatrice Kaufman: “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.” Ain’t that the truth.
Actually, I’ve never been poor. My brother and sister and I never felt “Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived,” but for a while after our father died, when we were in our teens, it was a bit touch and go.
We did o.k. because Mom knew how to make ends meet, how to squeeze a nickel, how to have us help out wherever we could. Entering her own teens during the depression, she had a great example to follow in her own mother, the mother of eight. My mom learned well. She fed us well, made a lot of our clothes, and kept a lovely home. Though she took her vacation time from work when we were out of school for the summer, we all loved to be home with her. I particularly remember one day when we had school but she was off from work. Coming home that afternoon was such a treat because Mom was there to greet us. I still remember the smiles.
Once when funds were scarce and my Mom couldn’t get new gym sneakers for me, she darned the holes in the old ones with maroon thread - my school colors, maroon-and-white-dynamite! I thought it was great, and I think I started a minor fad. It never bothered my sister or me that she had hand-made our prom gowns, or any of our clothes. Though we didn’t have the expression “it is what it is" then, it was what it was, and it was normal life for us. Every once in a while during those years, Mom would get a little ahead. She said it never failed: one of us would need something out of the ordinary and she’d be back to square one. She was there so often, she knew how to handle it. I am pleased to report that for the last years of her working life she had a wonderful job with my uncle, was paid a very good salary, and with family and friends, along with some world travel, enjoyed her retirement immensely.
And really, though it might be better, I’ll never be rich. My husband and I are contentedly comfortable. We were able to retire when he was 55. When you finally own your own home, have no outstanding loans or credit card balances, and drive a good ten-year-old car, yes, life can be called comfortable. Not rich, comfortable.