From a Welfare Kid
I am a welfare kid. Oldest of 5 children, mother has a 9th grade education. She married my father at 15 (he was 21), had me a year later at age 16, and so forth. Father has an 8th grade education. Dear dad took off after 10 years of marriage - have heard I have several unknown siblings out there somewhere. No, he never once paid a penny of child support. He just left.
Mom's family is from Missouri - you guessed it, trailer parks, shacks, too many people stuffed into small houses with too many animals, bugs and parasites. We were the runny-nosed kids in worn-out clothes people looked down on to make themselves feel better.
After dear dad took off, mom supported us by working in various nursing homes as a nurse's aid or as a laundry person. Other jobs she had were motel maid, waitress, phone sales, cleaning taverns after closing, etc.
We have been homeless, living in a borrowed car, eating at missions when we were in larger towns/cities. Oh, did I mention the places we lived? Before I was 18, we lived in Missouri, Okalahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, California, Utah, South Dakota and Oregon. We rarely spent more than 6 months in the same place, same school district, usually it was a completely different town.
We stood in the free cheese lines, went to the church clothes closets, accepted the Thanksgiving and Christmas kindnesses of strangers with as much dignity as possible. We endured sermons from all the different churches that my mom tried to get help from. Rarely did the help come.
Did we like it? Not a danged minute of it. The sympathetic looks from the do-gooders who pretended to care. Those who expected us to fall at their feet because they brought us a turkey.
Am I grateful? Yes. To my mother. She found ways to feed us when there was no food. When I was a bitchy teenager refusing to stoop so low as to "go begging" as I called it, she went alone or with one of my brothers. I was ashamed that we were so poor. Teenagers hate being different, no matter what they tell you.
As a young teen, I babysat for money to buy a pair of "cool" jeans so I could be something like the other kids. I wore that stupid pair of jeans until they wore out and then bought another pair.
The people I remember most from childhood are those who looked upon us as people and not a cause. Those who sat with us, laughed with us, just talked with us. Those who looked beyond the ragged clothing and to the people we were. My brothers were unruly at times - guess what, mom was tired. She didn't always have the energy to do it all.
Mom made sure we could all read, spell and write well. She knew we would be judged by that. She also made sure we had books no matter where we were. libraries are free. Those books became escapes from lives we could not deal with sometimes.
All but one of us dropped out of high school. With the moving around, it was almost impossible. We received GEDs instead.
Today, all we kids are grown. I am completing my Bachelors. My sister has almost completed her Masters. My three brothers work as a computer tech, sheetrock hauler and a med aide in a nursing home. I don't have children but my siblings have given me nine wonderful nephews and nieces.
Growing up, we learned early on that all we really had was one another. We currently all live within 5 miles of one another. When I count my best friends, I count my brothers and sister first.
We live far away from my mother's family. They are the very definition of dysfuntion. Not good people to be around in any situation.
I'm not sure how it happened, but none of us were ever in jail, ever addicted to anything more than nicotine. According to some statistics and to most people's prejudice on this board, we should all be white trash meth addicts.
For those of you who look down upon those little kids with hungry eyes and brave faces, reach out to them instead of judging. It can really make a difference.
Thanks for reading.
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