First things first: it is absolutely unnecessary to have a countdown for the President’s speech to congress. Come on CNN, this isn’t a WWF Smackdown. There’s no space shuttle about to launch. I do not need to know that there’s 5 minutes and 14 seconds to go. Really.
This leads into my next topic, the economy (which I’m assuming is all Obama is going to talk about in 4:03). I was thinking about how far-reaching this recession has been. How it has affected those closest to me. Rarely do national events strike so close to home for me - I have no family or close friends in service (apparently the only “national event” I can think of is war?)
I have been very fortunate during this time, knock on wood. I have a good job, it’s relatively secure, and things are stable for my immediate family. In fact, we’re doing better now than any other time I can think of. Growing up, we were lower middle class. Yes, I think that best describes it. We weren’t poor enough to qualify for federal aid, but we also didn’t partake in most of the small luxuries/extravagances other friends’ families did. Looking back now, with our current state of affairs on my mind, I’m realizing how much my parents sacrificed and how fiscally responsible they were. They were Suze Orman’s dream - they are STILL Suze Orman’s dream. They only bought was was absolutely necessary. They always paid off their entire credit bill each month. The only thing they didn’t pay for in cash was our house. I’m truly amazed.
I’m also humbled with I think about how hard it was to raise a family a five, most of the time on one income. When I was three, my father was laid off for awhile and my mother went to work as a maid at a nearby motel. She spoke little English and had no formal education (in Thailand or the U.S.) so that was the only job she could get. When I was 7 or 8, she went to work at the local fernery. I don’t think I told a single friend about this at the time. I was embarrassed - of course I’m ashamed of myself now, but I understand why I felt that way. My friends were all middle class, with educated parents, and nice homes. I felt like I didn’t quite fit in, I wasn’t able to afford the cool clothes and shoes my friends had; I wasn’t going to add to it.
I think the only people associated with being fern cutters at that time (and maybe still) were hispanic immigrants. I think very few people had any idea how many southeastern asians lived in our area. I feel like it exploded in the 90s, and it’s absolutely huge now. Having no education or money when they arrived here, they worked where they could. Many of them illegally. I remember visiting a housing development next to one of the fern fields. Looking back, I’m surprised it was allowed to exist. Actually, I doubt anyone (including the government) knew about the living conditions there. It was basically a slum. I have never seen anything since that compares to it. A long wooden shack of a building, each family getting one small room to live in. No hot water, no heat/air conditioning, I’m struggling to remember if they even had indoor toilets. They had no beds, they slept on the floor. My mother and I would go there to visit her Thai and Laotian friends, down a long dusty dirt road, outside of the city. We’d bring old clothes to give them, we’d stay and eat, I’d play with the kids my age. I think about how little we had and find it hard to imagine how rich we looked in their eyes.
It’s hard to think back to those days without feeling sad.
One point it brings up is that everything is relative. My notion of poor is another’s concept of rich. When we look at what we really have, it’s hard for many to say that we have hit rock bottom. I know people who have lost their jobs - but they might have a small savings to live off of, or are able to move home and live with family. They have a fallback. It’s not a permanent fix, of course, but it’s enough to sustain them until they can get back on their feet again. It’s more than those fern workers had. And yet they survived. And we will too.
Ok, I’m done being all gushy and philophical…or whatever that spiel was. I originally set-out to write about my parents and how proud I am of them and then went off on a tangent. A good tangent, though.
I will say this about Obama’s speech tonight - he mentioned Charter Schools! Woot! Everyone take a shot. Oh, and my favorite quote, about high school dropouts “When you drop out of high school you not only quit on yourself. You quit on your country!” Snap!
Also, my roommate Laura wants to know who the “tiny black lady next to Michele” is