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Not Quite Poor

June 16, 2015

In many ways, we were fortunate when the tornado hit Waco. Our family business, the Health Camp (possibly the worst-named burger joint in America) on the Circle, sustained only minor damage when the front window blew in. My grandfather, Sam Schaevitz, had hustled the customers into a storage room seconds before the glass sent potentially lethal shards flying across the dining room, and nobody was injured.

Grandpa, Dad and my Uncle Jack were days away from opening a lunch place on Franklin Ave. when the tornado blew through the heart of downtown. Its doors never opened, and the financial hit was severe. Still, our house was untouched, nobody in our family died, and we still had a steady source of income. But things were tight for a long time afterward as the city struggled to recover.

My sister Linda and I knew that we weren’t rich. We’d had it drilled into us that we had to be careful with money, but of course at our age we had no real sense of what things cost. I remember wondering why Dad wouldn’t just buy a new car when the latest models were announced, why we didn’t go out to eat more often, and why when we did I wasn’t allowed to order steak.

We weren’t exactly impoverished. We owned our own home and we had a business that managed to pay the mortgage, but looking back I think I now understand just how close to the brink we probably were. In those days Dad and Uncle Jack worked sixteen hours a day with virtually no time off. I’m guessing that they simply couldn’t afford to hire extra help until business recovered. Every purchase Mom made at the grocery store had to be carefully considered. She filled book after book with S&H Green Stamps. She cooked with as much from the backyard garden as she possibly could.

Tomorrow’s story is about what happened when I was a little too careless with a family treasure. That I still remember it so vividly is a testament to how traumatic it must have been at the time. It wasn’t the first or the last time that I proved to be untrustworthy with my parents’ property–I lost my Dad’s prized World Series baseball, signed by the members of the 1954 Cleveland Indians; I traded away my Mom’s gorgeous porcelain Snow White and Seven Dwarfs figurines for some worthless bauble; I left Dad’s baseball glove out in the rain–but this is the incident that most makes me cringe when I think about it.

Maybe writing this sad little tale will let me finally put it to rest.