Reflections on a Life in Poverty

Submitted by “E.R.”

I am a woman and I’m getting “up there”. I am/was a single a mother of 3 sons and now I’m a grandmother. I am blessed.  But back then, did I know poverty!

Being a hard working and struggling single parent sounds a bit cliché to me. So many had it worse than I did. But no matter time or distance the memories stay with you.

I really struggled during my 20s and 30s. I learned the meaning of hunger although my kids never did. “Mum” often had a sore stomach and didn’t want to eat. That’s what I told them. There were no immediate family members and childcare was expensive so I went without sleep, often working 2 and 3 jobs.

One day when we were at a food bank, my son looked up at me and asked “Mum, what kind of store is this?”  I told him it was a store that helps everyone. It was a very poignant and heartbreaking moment for me. Through hard work and perseverance, I never had to use one again.  I also got very creative. I learned how to make a pot of soup with 2 strips of bacon, bound with thread for stock. Any left-overs were used for rice/pasta.  I knew 2 eggs beaten with some water ( milk not an option ) could help make a scrambled egg breakfast for 3.

I discovered old bread made for a better tasting sandwich. When marinated properly, a cheap cut of beef could result in a roast beef dinner, hot roast beef sandwiches and a pot of beef barley soup. Belly fillers were porridge, stews, soups, casseroles, potatoes…… and more potatoes.

To avoid the constant ring of debt I collectors, I became a wiz at turning the phone down at evenings while reading to my sons before bed.

I came to appreciate all thrift stores and knew if I scrubbed and shined my purchases they would not be questioned. I carefully selected clothes name brands at these stores for my sons ( promptly washed and pressed ) so they would not feel  different from their friends.

I could buy the biggest chicken and pass it off as turkey at Christmas. During the holiday season, I would secretly ask the landlord to pay the rent in 2 parts/payments so the boys and I could have a day out during holidays. Rent to own stores became my home furnishers and suppliers of my sons’ first boom boxes and other Christmas gifts.

I walked everywhere but my kids got bikes that worked!

I introduced the wee corner store owner to the meaning of ‘ Tick ‘ so he would let me get milk and other necessities until pay day.

I worked so hard raising my sons. It was a trial, but so worth it. We got through it. I’m pretty sure my kids don’t know even half of how hard it was, but then they shouldn’t have cause they were just kids.

Today I am settled. I’m not rich but I’m not struggling. It’s a good time and I smile a lot just like we did back then. We are a close family and I am blessed. I’m so thankful my sons are grown strong, decent and they live well. There is a wee bit inside that is so thankful they will never know the meaning of poverty again.