47% Cheese

Some of you know that I am the product of divorce, back when it was still a trendy,  movement. As Gram used to say, I am from a “broken home”. My home really was broken; Gram had no idea. My father was a lunatic and everything, sooner or later, was broken.

My mother gathered her courage and swallowed her pride to save all of us kids, back in 1970. She left my father and ran to her parents for help in restoring her life.  She taught kindergartners during the school year, she raked blueberries and packed fish in the summer, and she still found time to drive 240 miles round trip once a week on Thursday nights to get her masters in special ed. She worked her ass off.

It didn’t matter how hard she worked, or that we had a huge vegetable garden feeding three families, or that all of our meat was purchased as whole or half critters, to be butchered and frozen in the deep freeze, for meals through the winter. A lot of our clothes were cast off or hand me downs from our betters. We just couldn’t make it without a little help.

We got free food, USDA surplus. All of us kids liked the cheese and the apple juice. The peanut butter was good too. It didn’t have all the additives peanut butter is routinely disgraced by now. I did not care for the canned pork or any of the canned vegetables but I ate them. When you are getting food for free, you do not waste it and you don’t turn your nose up at it.

I was reminded of this by a post my brother has on his FB page. Lots of kids we grew up with chimed in. They’re responsible adults with decent jobs and growing kids of their own. I had forgotten how many of them ate free food, USDA surplus. One of them, Mikey, recalled the free food in his mom’s fridge and pantry. His mom worked at the school cafeteria, housekeeping for other people, and cooking at a local restaurant. He was raised by his older siblings while his mother worked her ass off.

Mikey lamented the powdered milk. It was icky but moderately okay poured over cereal. Mikey extolled the virtues of the cheese calling it the “best cheese ever”. It came in 1 lb. blocks and made grilled cheese sandwiches that were positively sublime, macaroni and cheese that was the entree of choice.

Our mothers were independent, free thinking, hard working women. They weren’t dependent on government and they didn’t believe they were victims. They were far from entitled. Those women, in working their asses off, instilled in all of us a work ethic and independence that no one, not even robber barons and thieves, can take away from us.

In working her ass off, my mother taught me to be LOUD and PROUD as I tell Mitt Romney to kiss mine.

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About elroyjones

Married, no children, responsibly self-directed, living happily.
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15 Responses to 47% Cheese

  1. Peggy says:

    Yep, that’s right. And, when I got pregnant early and had two kids, I also received WIC, vouchers for Women Infant and Children. I got that same cheese, and cereal (not sugary) and milk for me when I was pregnant and formula and foods for my kids. And, it was great, and helpful, and people are still getting it today. I was stopped at a street fair recently where a woman had set up a WIC booth. She encouraged my oldest daughter to get WIC because she and her husband make under the guidelines. It’s to make people healthier and it’s an admirable social program. We all work our asses off – none of us sit around “being welfare mothers” (a Reagan campaign slogan) and we all need a little help now and then. It’s been a looooonnnngggg time since I got social help but it changed my life when I needed it. Romeny has no idea what it feels like to NEED.

    • elroyjones says:

      We give because we know what need is. I had a conversation, yesterday, with a woman who remembers the years of her young adulthood when she barely scraped by. We laughed because we know how to make do.
      Now, in the concluding portion of our lives, scraping by will look very different than it did then because we have the furnishings and clothing we need so subsistence is the only requirement. We’re not afraid because we’re accustomed to less.

  2. I remember that cheese and peanut butter from my grandparents’ table. The peanut butter had the oil still on the top that you could stir in. It smelled so much better than the JIF we always had at home.

    • elroyjones says:

      I remember a time, when I was around 20 and on my own, that I wanted everything in my cupboards to have a brand label. Even in the early days of our marriage, we thought brands were synonymous with quality. Now, I shop by ingredients and price- in both instances less is more!

  3. This was beautiful and stirring and moving and touching and lots of other descriptive words. Awesome post.

  4. Ray Colon says:

    The foodstuff that I remember liking most were the powdered eggs. They looked and tasted as if they were made entirely of yolks.

    Raising children is tough, especially when women (and it’s almost always women) are thrust into the role of sole provider. My mom found herself in that situation and she’s worked harder throughout her life than anyone that I’ve ever known to see the family through.

    The shortsightedness of the crowd who would rail against helping families with USDA surplus, food stamps, or the WIC program that Peggy mentioned is a continual puzzlement to me. The economic cost is a pittance compared to what we pay for warplanes, bombs, and bullets. My family benefited from some of those “evil” government programs. Thank you, U.S. Government for pitching in when needed, but that’s only the beginning of the story. The story ended when my mom delivered unto the nation six tax-paying, fair-minded, eminently employable, law abiding, contributing members of society. Not a bad deal, I’d say.

    Oh, and to Mr. Romney… what she said!

    • elroyjones says:

      I can’t believe I forgot the powdered eggs! I ate those eggs until they came out my ears. There is no shame in getting help. I believe that I share more because I know what it is like to struggle. Great comment, Ray.

  5. You’re going to be yelling at your TV screen tonight, aren’t you?

    • elroyjones says:

      It will likely be a disgraceful display of temper. I cannot abide that scurrilous, beady eyed, elitist. His wife was whining on one of the news programs, in recent weeks, about how “hard” it is to campaign- too fucking bad, suck it up Buttercup, this is how it goes when Daddy wants to be king! When they lose it won’t matter, they’ll be back in La Jolla, congratulating each other over the newly installed car elevator. You’ll be able to hear me in Vermont tonight.

  6. gkinnard says:

    Romney is an out of touch jerk. What was that old movie, “Trading Places?” We should make old Mitt switch places with the folks “who don’t count” and do a little time with the 47%. A big old slab of guv’ment cheese might be just the thing to turn him around!

  7. John says:

    Here’s to Gummint Cheese! I had my fair share; I had free lunches at school, for a year or two after my father died, and my mother was left a widow. In the years when we could, both my mom and I worked, and paid taxes. My mom worked hard, sometimes at 3 jobs, to pay her taxes, and, she paid into Social Secuity and Medicare the whole time, so she’d have some extra money when she got older. I make no apologies to Mitt Romney or any other Republican for being part of the 47% from time to time. We can’t all be born to rich parents and never have to worry about paying the rent, or buying food.

    Romney did lie his way to a winning debate performance, but there’s no way in hell I’d ever vote for a party that thinks that half of Americans are just too lazy and dependent.

    • elroyjones says:

      I wanted to slap the smirk off Romney’s face. He looks like a snake in the grass to me and what was the BS about running for president because he was displeased by the turn the country had taken in the last 4 years? He’s been running for president since 2007, he didn’t make the cut for 2008. He just wants to be king.

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