Thursday, April 7, 2016

G Is For Garbage - A Slightly Fictionalized Memoir #AtoZChallenge

  
     Garbage takes on a whole new meaning when you're poor. In fact, garbage practically disappears because you've re-used, re-purposed, gnawed and consumed just about everything that has crossed your path. Hipsters now Dumpster dive for fun and profit, or to make a point about rampant consumerism. But poverty is no joke, and it has a way of warping you so that even a sudden rise in fortune isn't enough to pry the grasping claws of that inner Bag Lady loose.
     I'm the proud recipient of a frugality hat trick. My grandparents lived through the Depression and my parents were raised during war time; I managed to wreck my college career, land a part-time job selling frozen meat over the phone, rent a rundown mobile home and become owner of an abandoned cat (who eventually abandoned me in disgust and moved in with the slightly-better-off family up the street). So I have zero compunction about looking through donation piles to enhance my wardrobe, vacuuming up free samples at the supermarket, or checking the sofa cushions for change at the bookstore.
      When I was a kid, one thrifty relative (I won't say who since he/she isn't dead yet) taught us to check the return slots on gum machines and public phones for change, as well as to prowl under the stadium seats during sporting events in search of dropped money or objects of value. (We were too young at the time to bother looking up, in case you wondering.) We never found much cash but there were other treasures; sweatshirts, a dog collar which I traded for a really cool pen, and a pocket knife which was eventually confiscated by my parents. I also collected soda can pop-tops and strung them into a chain to decorate my room.
     Actually, kids have no preconceived notions of "garbage". Anything is fair game; they'll eat dog food, a cupcake in the trash can, a stick of gum on the street. "But the wrapper's still on!" Bottle caps and cigarette butts are intriguing playthings. (I grew up in a safe country; my husband and his friends famously dragged home an unexploded WW2 bomblet in the UK.)
     My mom's friend Nancy became a widow early on. She offered Mom some of her deceased husband's clothes, which were "relatively new". After that, Dad would periodically appear in the morning, dressed very nattily. "Look honey, I'm wearing my dead man's pants today!"
     I didn't have any dead girl clothes but I did have something far worse - hand-me-downs. You may think that you're familiar with 1970s fashion, but did you know that some trends were so hideous that they died after a few months? Imagine having to wear them THREE YEARS LATER. The terrycloth jumpsuit. Yes, terrycloth, as in washcloth material. The knickers, which should have remained in the 1800s. The macrame, suitable for hanging plants but not Junior High attire. I wore them all, and was beaten up for it. The only kid worse off may have been Kathy K, who's mother knitted her a sweater from the family dog's hair. She tried to pass it off as angora until someone (there's always that one person) produced a picture of Bandit and held it up next to her.
      Old habits die hard. I'm writing this while wearing my son's cast-off sweatpants from 20 years ago. My coffee mug advertises a prostate health drug - a freebie from a senior health bazaar. I use Vaseline for my skin, eyebrows, and to grease those noisy door hinges. I use teabags at least twice. I could lie and say that I'm concerned for the environment and trying to reduce my "footprint". But really, I'm constantly planning for the day when everything might disappear and I'll be forced to live on little or nothing. Those Doomsday Preppers have got nothing on me.
    
      

24 comments:

  1. the image of the 70s clothes hurts just seeing it. If that is anyway true about that jumpsuit, i am soooo sorry.

    70s fashion should be wiped from all existence. well, most of it. there were a couple of things that were okay, i guess. i can't think of any right off hand.

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    1. Yes. It's true, although it was a "romper" instead of a jumpsuit which (I guess) was marginally better. The only thing I can think of from the 70s that I actually liked (and they're baaaack this year) are the loose, embroidered "peasant" blouses. Very cool and comfy.

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  2. Wearing my dead man's pants - that's hilarious!
    As the youngest of two, I occasionally got those out of style hand me downs. Fortunately, by the time I cared, I was big enough that I had to have new ones.

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    1. Dad's got a brilliant wit and deadpan delivery. :)

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  3. I can so relate to this. Wonder post. I had poncho my gram crocheted.

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    1. Ah yes, ponchos. One thing that I MIGHT have worn, but never had one.

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  4. I've been brought up on hand me downs so I identified with your post, Lisa!
    Damyanti, AZ cohost 2016

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    1. It wasn't so bad in later years - just those early, dreadful 70s fads. Thanks for dropping by, you cohosts have a lot on your plates!

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  5. Our family didn't have much money when we were children. My twin and I wore lots of hand me downs, only we were really lucky, the other pair of twins in the village who were a year or two older than us, had rich parents. We may have been slightly late for the fashion, but, wow, were they nice clothes :). Used to love jumble sales too - people throw out such good stuff. My whole upbringing set me up really well for being a student - never had trouble making the money stretch :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. True - less money on clothes, more money for actual needs (in school) like pizza and beer.

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  6. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge - where I am part of Arlee Bird's A to Z Ambassador Team.
    How has the first week of the challenge been for you so far? Are you meeting your goals of posting and hopping to other blogs?
    My blog still has a giveaway with bonus a to z challenges to encourage people to visit more stops. Thanks for your visit.
    http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com
    Way to be an excellent survivalist! It's crazy what shows up in the trash now. Remember when people repaired VCRs? Ha ha... VCRs... and repairing!! It's become cheaper to replace, so we make more waste. Crazy.

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    1. I'm a little behind in visits but I'm off tomorrow so I hope to catch up (especially since it might snow!) As for VCRs...I still have 2, and they work. I can pick up movies for my granddaughter for 1.00 per bag at flea markets; the last bag had 15 movies including LOTS of Disney classics.

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  7. for millions and millions of people this is a realty, nicely written

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    1. Thank you. You're right, and those millions would be ecstatic to have what many of us throw away on a daily basis.

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  8. This was cute to read! You learned at a young age how to re-purpose and how to be thrifty :) That is a gift I think. I learned from my mom budgeting skills and watching the sales papers for the grocery stores. What was on sale for the week was what we age. Never went hungry, but sometimes had chicken seven days in a row (all delicious).

    I work at home so I don't need a fancy wardrobe. I go to the local secondhand stores and buy tops to wear during the week and then buy a few "fancy" things elsewhere for the weekend and social occasions.

    It does pay to be thrifty indeed!

    betty
    http://viewsfrombenches.blogspot.com/

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    1. It really is a gift! There's a certain peace of mind in knowing that I could get by on very little if I had to.

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  9. I really hope the part about the jumper made from dog hair was fictionalized! Very interesting piece, I enjoyed it
    Debbie

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    1. It was, sort of. Her sweater really WAS an angora mix but one of the naughty boys started the rumor that it was dog fur. :)

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  10. My mother grew up on very little, and she became a massive packrat. It was slightly unaccountable growing up in a house like that, but I knew I internalized a lot of the behavior, because I chuckled knowingly throughout this post...

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    1. I watch the show Hoarders and apparently quite a few people who grow up in very poor (or unstable) homes eventually find themselves unable to part with anything. Fortunately I also tend toward the OCD end of the scale, so I clean, scrub, organize and don't accumulate much in the first place. The craziness balances itself out in me. :)

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  11. oh wow - you lived in that park for a while. Nice post - I was rather fond of the group Garbage - underrated...

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    1. Never heard of Garbage, going to look them up. Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. I used to have some terrycloth clothes when I was a kid. I forgot all about that! As for the tea bag thing, I have several friends that use them twice and I kind of feel bad that I don't. I don't know why but I just can't bring myself to do it. Seems silly.

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