Our dear Mrs. Middleton the Strict sent us home with a regenerative task one fine spring afternoon, crisp with the traveling song of wayward dandelions and invincible country singers drunk on the booze left undelivered by the winds of tomorrow’s next surprise. Her thirty students were to ask each of our parents, and in those days, most kids our age could boast two by law and two by social proxy, which each was casting their beloved ballot in November next. And only then, after due diligence and careful consideration of the civic exegesis (spunk) we had learned in class, we must decide which candidate for President of our gifted nation we would support if we were old enough to privilege the vote. As a nine year old 4th grader, and one of the more active agitators in Mrs. Middleton 4th grade class, I was prepared to execute this transcendent homework task with the high seriousness of at least a fifth grader, maybe except a sixth. In fact, I figured I was already smarter than the most fifth graders, but being the elder sibling in my family, I had no one to compare myself except to the gaggle of youngsters, all of us five boys, who never once glanced at a newspaper, much less opened a book they weren’t flogged mercilessly by Mother to get up in that room, son, and do your homework or I’ll give you something to cry about if not by hell or high water, and none of them made the same hefty marks I earned without fail. But one problem stood between me and my task. The code of silence. My daddy and my momma were damned nearly unapproachable most of the day, even on weekends. The only time we all seemed to be together as family was dinnertime as we sat quietly mum on three sides of a stained ten-foot long wooden door Daddy had converted with spindly but strong wrought iron legs into a table special enough for us, but then that’s when the dreaded code of silence began in earnest. Rule number one. No talking at the dinner table. Seasons flew by when table talk was allowed more often than others, but when this particular assignment made table talk a red-blooded American necessity, the family was in absolute quiet mode. We said a blessing, or we didn’t, but we always asked to be excused from the table, unless we were still sitting there staring down some god awful gut-churning liver, or fried eggplant casserole, untouched, untouchable as always, since thelast time we were tortured to eat what we dare not eat. All in silence. No complaining, No bickering. Yes tonight, President’s night, we had a fresh, tasty meal of lima beans and rice, iced tea to wash it down, and nothing but the ham hocks and a few homework words to tussle for.
How many times have I heard, usually right after some poverty statistic has been uttered, “Oh, that’s so sad. It’s always the kids that suffer most.”
That’s a load! Unless you’re talking about Africa. But in America, home of the God Who Gave Us the soup kitchen, most poor kids don’t really suffer as much as their parents. Kids, even those who perceive their own low status, and chafe as a result, still accept life as it is because they really haven’t yet developed the knowledge and skills envy requires to be truly miserable. It’s only once poor kids grow up that their own problems REALLY begin. Kids adapt. Invent fictional worlds, game everything in sight. If one doesn’t, then I’d guess those folks who patronize the poor child with condescending fluff might have found themselves a truly suffering child. What’s even more tragic is to flood a kid with gifts and platitudes without real preparation for the working world of cut throat capitalism and smarmy elitist liberalism where only the well-connected and the beautiful truly succeed, quite similar to the way crony capitalism works…
© 2011, Gabriel Thy. All rights reserved.