Preamble To The Way Back Home (Part 1)

MY BLESSED DAY AT THE DAILY BREAD FOOD BANK

I arrived twenty-two minutes early, parked Blue, and sat listening to my daily Spotify-curated eclectic mix – Classic Rock Anthems courtesy of Seger, Springsteen and the Rolling Stones … drizzled with bubble-gummy ABBA, Boney M and yeah, the Brothers Gibb stuttering Ja-Ja-Ja-Jive Talkin’.  The Gap Band got the funk all the way down with Party Train ending the set.  I needed something to lift the malaise draping over me.  Music, for once, didn’t get it done.

I tapped Kuched on my iPhone.  To see where I was at.  I’ve been stammering on Step 3 of the Dozen Futility Movements in a program self-scripted to wean off checking WordPress every 9 minutes.  Perhaps, I just need to reset my notifications to stop bothering me.  I’ll get over myself one day.

All was safe and predictably Monday-ish in the Blogosphere.  All Caught Up On Catching Up.  I may have intentionally Like-bombed stuff I skipped reading.   If you’re reading this, it wasn’t your post.

“Does My Over-Sharing Version of The Truth Read as Mean?  It’s impossible to tell from my vantage point atop the Soap Box.  Really, I wouldn’t want to risk spraining an ankle jumping off.”

Too many minutes of quiet solitary company in confined spaces – my car – is usually enough to get me on my nerves (not really), before I moseyed my reluctant carcass across the parking lot I gave thought to why I was here … volunteering at a food bank on a vacation day.

 

BROUGHT ME BACK … DECADES AGO

Then, it would’ve been my mother coming to a similiar place for a different reason.

Schlepping a caboodle of us.  Four little kittens in 6 years.  And, two older teenaged cats.  Yep, astute Family Planning Baby Boomer style.  Or, just herself.  Public transit across town.  There was no wanting back then.  In the Day.  Need was the only reason we ever did anything.

The Good Times?  The surprise Christmas Food Hampers.  I’ll say it was the Salvation Army because that’s the organization I remember most, or possibly, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  The Kiwanis Club.  St. Helen’s Catholic Parish.  And, CHUM radio station.

Collectively, these organizations amongst others, with their Food, Winter Clothes and Toy Drives made something of a Christmas possible for families without much.  The Holiday Season bearable.  And, I suspect now, a suicide or two was averted.

 

MY FONDEST MEMORY

Is of a favorite toy I’d received. 

I’ve written about it – him – in one of my earliest posts.  My beloved French-speaking G.I. Joe – Jacques – RIP, Mon ami.  I’d trade any ten of my vintage Hot Wheels cars if I still had them, just for another afternoon with him.

Mostly, I recall the Shame of Childhood Poverty.  It never leaves me.  Fucking hated it.  I can’t make this point any more poetic or less guttural.  I can’t edit the profanity, or drop whimsy wordplay, to lighten my memory.

 

SHAME UNNECESSARY

Papa Lothario jussaying … Fatherhood was free, but you could’ve paid a little something if not attention.

How’d you miss out on being a man?”

I’m sure Father Whathisfaccia? had dropped a few hints during Confession.  No?  Or did the Sunday Busta absolve all your sins – sans penance – by bribing The Holy Father to look away?

 

BEING 7 YEARS-OLD

Dragging my skinny ass down three flights of stairs from a shitty, hole-in-the-wall inner city flat, with a small note folded in my hand. 

That old burnt chestnut … castagne roasting.  Better now.  Fabulous, really.

Afraid I’d lose the paper before I got there.  Afraid of the humiliation when I got there.  Afraid my mother had lost her will to ever get there.”

Shame, it seems, doesn’t skip a generation, let alone a heartbeat.

 

I’D ALWAYS READ THE NOTE

Same thing.  Pretty much. 

In my mother’s neat cursive handwriting.  Asking the neighborhood grocer, a kind Italian man – a family-run shop with a fine butcher and deli counter, and tight aisles crammed with dry and canned food – for $10 in credit.  1970 dollars.

Mom would list the items.  Food staples.  I knew later this was a rudimentary Promissory Note.  I don’t know how much of the weekly debt she’d pay back.  If anything, something, I’m sure, though don’t know how she’d manage that.

For the longest time, I thought my very conception was the paybackand me, decidedly not immaculate, but a sordid by-product … of a consolidated debt.  Though, that’s just the ugly nasty bastard in me coming out.   Let’s stick with … she found another way.

 

THE FRIGID WINTER MORNINGS

In the predawn dark, trekking in the other direction to the local diner. 

Different handwritten note.  Sometimes with a small change purse to hold loose coins.  Coming back home up the flight of stairs with a brown paper bag with chocolate-glazed donuts.  Breakfast for the Bastards.  Just the five of us.  One bedroom.  It wasn’t something I was complaining about.

These are my reflections now and as I left my car two days ago.  My apprehension about going into a food bank to help.  Though I don’t know why I had this fear.  A recollection of shame.  And, insatiable curiosity beyond fate.

I needed to face what I knew was ahead.  A vicarious visit to Christmas Pasts.  Probably why A Christmas Carol always scared the Dickens out of me …

 

Image by 445693 from Pixabay

29 thoughts on “Preamble To The Way Back Home (Part 1)

  1. Jim Borden

    you had me at Springsteen. and then you mentioned checking WordPress constantly (I just wrote about the same issue!). But the best part of your blog was your openness in telling about your childhood. I can perhaps see now why you are so committed to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. inhiscare753

    Beautiful post, it resonates within touches the heart, recalling memories. It takes strength and courage face those fears and memories of shame. I’m thankful that you broke through. Giving back and serving at the food bank is beautiful, brings healing. Organizations like Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, and various Churches are making a difference in the lives of so many people. There are so many volunteer opportunities and ways to give back. Thanks for sharing. Lengthy comment,…I know, this is close to heart. 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Writer of words

    My maternal grandfather, the only boy out of 9 children, had a sister who was almost a nun. (Don’t ask, I’d tell if I knew.) She was active in the Salvation Army in the town where I grew up in Switzerland. I never saw her at work or even knew much about her work as a child, I only learned about it later, after her death and after we had moved to Canada. But she was there, every day of her adult life, giving to those who were less fortunate than her. Although she was also poor, she never went hungry. They ate a lot of potatoes and beans, soup with tomatoes, cabbage. They even enjoyed meat on the dinner table once a week, usually on Sundays. (Side note: my grandfather would purposely spit on the sausage to gross out the older sisters which is how he ended up with the bulk of the protein. He was about 5 or 6 at the time. 🙂 )

    Poverty exists on many levels. We were poor too, relatively speaking to the excessive 80s, but always had enough to eat. Mom made a lot of minestrone or spaghetti…cheap carbs that were filling and home cooked. I wasn’t stylish or popular, but I was always fed. Probably the poorest kid at my high school.

    Later, in Canada, I heard about the last boat out of Latvia during the Nazi invasion. My In-laws, mere teenagers at the time pretending to be brother and sister, escaped the shooting spree at their local school house. Upon arrival in Canada, it was the Salvation Army that fed them on arrival, now as young parents of two small boys born in different European countries during WWII. Even for years after the war ended, my MIL depended on them to feed and clothe her and her four of what would eventually be five children.

    This was a heartfelt post and I know that wasn’t easy for you to write. I hope it provided catharsis for you, at the very least.

    You are a good man, Michael A. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael A. Kuch

      World Vision has a clever description – definition – comparing Absolute Poverty and Relative Poverty.

      I’ve written the 2nd part following my day at the Food Bank – some disturbing observations – and will publish tomorrow.

      Thank you for your kind comments and references, Claudette.

      Liked by 1 person

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