Our family grew up poor. That meant we had to be “creative” in having and buying certain material goods.
When I ran middle school track, our uniforms were old and the shorts were too short. In order for the team to be united and to keep the breeze from going through our rear ends, our coach required that we have black spandex to wear under our shorts.
I told my dad as I jumped into his clunker blue truck, “I need black spandex for track.” He drove me to Wal-Mart, the biggest store in the Northern Hemisphere of our State, and lo and behold, NO BLACK Spandex. Seriously, you can buy a gun, some ammo, a black ski mask, duckt tape, a crowbar and craw fish, but no black spandex! I mentioned that some girls on the team were going to the local sporting store in town, G & G Sports to buy theirs.
We parked the truck in the empty parking lot. We walked in and there was plenty to select from.
I found a pair that would fit and I just knew it would be the pair to set new records. “Twenty-two dollars!” my dad exclaimed in disgust. “Sorry, but I am not paying twenty-two dollars for spandex.” We left the store and I was disappointed.
The next few days, our coach kept reminding us that we needed black spandex as part of the uniform, or we wouldn’t be able to run at our first track meet.
So I had to find something and find it quick. I snuck into my mom’s closet drawer and pulled out a pair of her black stockings.
I put it under my shirt and ran to my room. I cut the bottoms and scrunched them up so they looked like black spandex. From far away you couldn’t tell the difference. No body could tell if they were stockings.
So when it was time to warm up for our relay race, one of my teammates stared at my “spandex” and asked, “Are those stockings?”
To my utter horror my secret was out! I freaked! My eyes popped out of their sockets and I shouted, “YEAH! IS there a problem?”
“NO! I just…”
“Just what?” My voice wasn’t very kind, but I was soooo scared that she would tell everyone else, and everyone would start teasing me.
So I did what anyone else would have done in this situation. I ran my ass off and helped our team win first place.
She said nothing more of my stockings. I was eternally grateful.
The next year I wore my moms’s stockings again, because for some alien reason, Wal-Mart did not provide black spandex and paying Twenty-two dollars was just something my dad was unwilling to pay.
I made Varsity Track that year. I even qualified for State as an 8th Grader, with those stupid black stockings.
When I was old enough to hold a job, I bought my Twenty-two dollar black spandex, along with a new pair of spikes, and deodorant- which is a whole other post at another time.
I am always amazed at how resilient children are, and mostly how when an obstacle presents itself we will do whatever it takes to meet a goal, or to participate in an activity or event. I was so determined to run track, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.
It’s true that poverty takes many forms. It often does mean lack of income, certainly, but it can be emotional or spiritual as well.
This particular memory I hold reminds me of the message I received when I was only a child- that I wasn’t worth even Twenty-two dollars. You see, it wasn’t that my dad didn’t have the money- he did. Most of his income went to his hobby in restoring old cars into hot rods.
So my sister and I had to find “creative” ways to fit in, to have certain items, even personal hygiene and health care. Ask my sister why her smile lights up the room today, and why she refused to smile for her Senior Portraits.
A child living in poverty is tragic indeed, but a child who thinks they don’t count is a child needing love. A child who believes they can’t do anything right is a child living in emotional poverty.
The good news is that being born into a poor emotional environment does not mean it is the child’s destiny to remain there. The past was not our choice- the present is.
How wonderful to pass this gift to others- that past wounds don’t have to define who we are!