Been a while since I posted here.
Here's a Xmas story I've told often to my students. It's a story about working class poverty and the children who live in those conditions.
One of the most memorable Xmas' I've ever had was our first one in Placerville. December 1965. We had just moved to Placerville a few months prior. My dad had landed a job as a Deputy Sheriff in El Dorado County. He would keep this job until he retired 24 years later.
We lived in a small duplex in downtown Placerville, close to Marshall Hospital. We had a tree, but there weren't going to be any presents this year. Dad's new job really didn't pay well, though it had benefits. Mom wasn't working yet but she would eventually take on two full-time jobs to help make ends meet. This Xmas, though, was going to be rough. The only presents (and food for that matter) would be brought up to our house from San Jose by my grandparents. They were set to arrive later in the day.
When my sister and I woke up in the morning, we were surprised to find a present for each of us under the tree. Santa had found our house, even without the chimney! We were beyond happy.
We opened our gifts. We both got a "rip-cord" dragster! We immediately set out to race them down the hallway!
What we found out later was that Dad had earned these two dragster toys as a free gift when he filled up the car at the gas station. Back in those days, if you filled up your car with a tank of gas, you would often receive a free gift.
We would never really be that poor again. We struggled for the next two-or-three years, but we would never be that poor. I learned much during that time, though. Family means lots, my father loved us deeply, and you don't really know you're poor until you interact with those who have more. Otherwise, you don't see yourself as different.