Feeling grateful

I am reading this interesting book at the moment – another gem from the charity book sale at work. Interesting title! It is about a totally hopeless mother who drags her poor children from one terrible situation to another. They are dirt poor, mostly because of the woman’s ineptitude and increasing reliance on ‘the social’ to pick her up when she is down. It is told through the eyes of the oldest child. I am half way through and really hoping she won’t follow in her mother’s footsteps and go for a life of booze, fags, drugs and useless men.

It reminded me of a childhood friend I met when I was 12. I was always aware my family didn’t have much to spare and money was tight, but if I ever felt hard done by then meeting this girl stopped all that. 

Her mum had agoraphobia and couldn’t be alone either at home or on the few occasions she left the house. Dad was in prison. There were four children at home. I remember being shocked that they had a boarded up window and that my friend had terrible old clothes and seemed permanently hungry. They didn’t have hot water or heating and she had to strip wash at the kitchen sink. Either she or her brother had to bunk off school to be with  her mum as she couldn’t be alone and the two youngest children were too little.

I really tried to help by giving her clothes, inviting her to dinner and I take credit in persuading her that she needed to come to school so that she could get her O levels. The truancy officers were always on their case and her mum had been taken to court several times. I can’t remember what arrangements were made but I do know she started coming to school almost every day.

She eventually got a Saturday job and ended up running off with the manager. I think he offered her safety and security, and the chance of a comfortable life away from the grinding poverty of her early years. She also passed all her exams and the last I heard had a great job with a government department. Her mum had also got treatment for her mental health issues and got over her agoraphobia. 

It shows that poverty is all relative and, whilst we may feel cash strapped, most of us will never have to suffer such real deprivation.

I truly feel for those that do, especially at this time of sometimes ridiculous excess. It makes me grateful that I have a job, a roof over my head and money left over for a festive celebration or two. 

I have all the presents bought and wrapped, the decorations up and the cards posted. I just need to write a shopping list for the Christmas food and will hit the supermarket very early on Christmas Eve and get it done. Then I have a whole 10 days off so will make the most of it. 

How are your preparations coming along?

3 thoughts on “Feeling grateful

  1. A post to show how grateful we should indeed be. I’m glad things worked out for your friend. I am pretty much there. Decs have been up since the beginning of the month, all presents wrapped and those which need to be sent are gone, we don’t really send cards, shopping list is done and will be bought tomorrow. Dad and they boys are out watching the new Star Wars film so I have the house to myself until early evening so having just finished my lunch will now decided what to do! Had a slight disaster this morning when I burnt one batch of mince pies. Bummer never mind, three dozed left to get us through the festivities. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  2. I was born in a Birmingham slum which was bulldozed when I was 3. We didn’t have much of anything but mom and dad were brilliant. When we were moved to a council estate, under the stern eye of my mom’s generation people were still poor but clean and fed. To me it was my generation (I’m 58) that made things go downhill. Maybe that is when the stigma of being an unmarried mother died a little and the council took care of unmarried mothers, automatically getting them a flat and kitting them out. Not a bad thing at all, but that whole situation has been so abused now. A girl in school had her first kid at 15 and by 21 had 4 more by 5 different “men” – all of them married. Last time I saw her I was on a bus going to college and she was about 8 months pregnant sitting on the wall of the pub drinking a pint. THAT was what made my mind up that I was going to get an education and get the hell out of there. I left for Switzerland at age 21 and have never moved back. (I have stored that book on my Amazon wish list to buy when I next make an order though). Anna

  3. I read stories like you shared about your friend and can’t help wondering what made the difference for her. Perhaps your youthfully innocent kindnesses mattered more than you imagined, in addition to helping her stay in school. Your clothes and dinner invites told her she matters, she’s important. No one should ever feel like they can’t do anything to change a child’s life for the better as your story so wonderfully demonstrates.

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