Looking back now, I realize that I can’t remember my father. He left when I was young, leaving only my mother to look after the seven of us. According to my mother, he left because he couldn’t stand the stress of living, literally, dirt poor. For some reason, I don’t think he lived long after he left us.
Our home was a working camp in Nipomo, California. Our “house” was a small, dirty tent. With eight of us packed in, oftentimes one of us would get kicked out in the night. Life as a child was hard. We did all we could to help our mother survive. We all took the rare odd jobs (such as picking crops, herding animals, and fixing tents), but it never seemed to make a difference. Soon, my two year-old brother caught the flu. We didn’t even have enough money to buy food, let alone call a doctor. A few nights later, my brother died in his sleep.
The good thing about living in the camp was that everyone came to my brothers’ “funeral”, which, in all reality, was little more that a hole dug in the ground with wildflowers plied on his lifeless corpse. I remember all the kind faces, and the people who offered what little help they could. After the “funeral” we became closer to our neighbors. With their support, we somehow made it through The Great Depression, even though we lost two more of my siblings due to various sicknesses.
Looking back, I now see that we had it better than most. We had close friends and a loving mother. Today, as I watched the shiny black coffin that held my mothers lifeless body being slowly lowered into the ground, I reflected back to those days when life didn’t seem as good. I realized that, even though we had been poor, my mother had lived her life to the fullest and I don’t think she would have changed a thing. The hard times brought us closer and I’m thankful I had at least one parent. As I watched the flowers and coffin lid vanish beneath the soft soil, I felt like the richest person alive.
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