My mom was a single mom of four kids. My brother’s dad left, my dad left, and my sisters’ father died when we were all young. She worked 40 plus hours a week at fast food chains to try to provide for us, but we still received food stamps and Medicaid. I grew up living in various trailer parks, apartments, and projects. I’m no stranger to poverty, which is one reason why I work so hard. I don’t want my children to grow up with the struggles that I did. I remember seeing the shame on my mother’s face sometimes. Here she was with four kids, ages 3, 5, 9, and 13, new to the area, no food in the house, and a new EBT card. The problem was the card wasn’t working yet, and we didn’t know until we stood at the checkout with a cart full of groceries and four hungry kids. The line behind us was growing and people were exchanging looks. There was nothing we could do (we didn’t have any cash for food), and there was nothing the poor cashier could do. My mom took our hands and we left the grocery store empty handed and hungry.
Today my heart broke a little as I was reminded of that day. I didn’t have any money for food, so my grandmother had given me her credit card so I could get some groceries until pay day rolls around and I could go get some. We don’t have food stamps. I was really careful with what we got, stretching each dollar as far as I could, looking at each sale as closely as possible. We had about $100 worth of food that I knew would last us if I was careful with meal planning. I swiped the card. Error. I swiped the card again. Error. Then I started praying. I swiped the card one more time, my lips moving in a frantic prayer urging it to go through. Credit cannot be processed at this time. I held back my tears and stress and looked at my husband as he reached for his wallet. He’d gotten paid Friday for some work he’d done, but it was all he had to last him through the week. As he swiped his debit card I was still praying for it to go through even though I knew it would.
It’s not that I felt shame for that. We were getting groceries for the family. For him, me, and our kids. I was just blatantly reminded of a time I had left behind. I’m thankful for his being there, for being able to help support us. I know many moms don’t have that. It’s possible someone may have stepped up to help. They didn’t 16 years ago, but maybe they would have now. Sometimes if I see a family that is obviously struggling in the line in front of me I’ll make sure they have what they need. I’m ready to offer help if I’m able. I’m not trying to be a saint for a savior. I know legitimately know what it feels like.
I know it’s a sad memory, and I don’t share those often. It’s no one else’s to bear, but I’m sharing it now because I know it is possible to come back from place like that. I know it’s possible to survive it. You just have to breathe through it.