Growing Up Poor

1822 words 8 pages
Growing up Poor
I did not realize until about the 5th grade, what being poor was all about. From kindergarten until then, kids didn’t really pay attention to what you wore to school, what type of home you lived in, or what your parents did for a living. What mattered was how nice you were, that you shared your toys, and took turns on the playground.
Fifth grade started a whole new chapter in life. It started with a new school with both familiar and unfamiliar faces and with that, new challenges that included trying to fit in with your peers. Not until I started getting questions like, “You get free lunch? How?” or being stared at while standing in the ‘free lunch line’ as it was called in school, did I realize that I was different
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And she had a daddy, and he had a good job. He was a paperhanger.
I guess I would have gotten over Helene by summertime, but something happened in that classroom that made her face hang in front of me for the next twenty-two years. When I played the drums in high school, it was for Helene, and when I broke track records in college, it was for Helene, and when I started standing behind microphones and heard applause, I wished Helene could hear it too. It wasn't until I was twenty-nine years old and married and making money that I finally got her out of my system. Helene was sitting in that classroom when I learned to be ashamed of myself.
It was on a Thursday. I was sitting in the back of the room, in a seat with a chalk circle drawn around it. The idiot's seat, the troublemaker's seat.
The teacher thought I was stupid. Couldn't spell, couldn't read, couldn't do arithmetic. Just stupid. Teachers were never interested in finding out that you couldn't concentrate because you were so hungry, because you hadn't had any breakfast. All you could think about was noontime; would it ever come? Maybe you could sneak into the cloakroom and steal a bite of some kid's lunch out of a coat pocket. A bite of something. Paste. You can't really make a meal of paste, or put it on bread for a sandwich, but sometimes I'd scoop a few spoonfuls out of the big paste jar in the back of the room. Pregnant people get strange tastes. I was pregnant


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