The first time that I consciously remembered the taste of being poor was in middle school. I babysat often for a wealthy woman in our small town. She had two young sons whom I watched and a daughter who was about ten years older than me. I watched the boys several times a week and idolized V, their older sister. She went to the local university and came home sporadically while I was there.
In between seventh and eighth grade, I went on a beach vacation with the M family. I remember carefully picking out all of my clothes- new bathing suits and a chambray summer dress that cost twenty-eight whole dollars. I was so proud of that dress- it was sleeveless and had little pintick details that made me feel pretty.
V went with us and treated me like the little sister she had never had. I watched the boys while she did college-y things and her mother laid by the pool with her cigarettes and diet cokes. V would come back to the beach house and we would giggle like little girls into the early morning. One morning, she asked to wear my dress and told me that I could wear her Laura Ashley jumper. I jumped at the chance and we traded.
We walked down the stairs and I remember the icy look on Miss M’s face. She pulled V into the hallway just within my hearing range and told V that she was not to trade clothes with the help. Ever. Again.
I was barely twelve and I remember the feeling of overhearing that I was less than.
I don’t remember the rest of that morning except for the stinging shame I felt.
I do remember other things about that summer beach trip. I remember when Miss M went shopping and came back with a pile of summery clothes and told me not to wear the stuff I had brought with me. I remember the divide between V and I became clear- we were not friends or sisters. I remember that I worked extra hard watching the boys and keeping everything spotless, determined to not be ‘less than.’
I remember that I never wore that chambray dress again.
Thanks to fantaseashells.com for the lovely starfish.
More from living