That I’m from blue collar stock seems a disingenuous claim when I explain to people that I graduated from a private high school (Walden Preparatory School) and that I attended a year at SMU (an outrageously expensive college) as well as an additional year, through the SMU study-abroad program, in England.
The fact is when I was fucking up in high school, my mother’s aunt paid may way into a private school for over-privileged fuck-ups. I certainly was a fuck-up. But my parents were scraping by for a living. And when my great aunt dipped into her savings to help me out, it wasn’t from some huge reserve gathered from a life financially well lived. Nope. My great aunt Lillian ran a hat shop over on the unfashionable west side of Dallas. However, she was a classic frontier woman who took no shit from anyone. She remembered coming to Texas from Oklahoma with her folks in a covered wagon. And, in her twenties, she drove with a woman friend from Texas to Alaska, because she’d always wanted to see that part of the world. I guess that would have been in the 1930s. That’s a hell of a road trip, even now. She was a pretty interesting woman. And when she offered her meager savings to help me out, I felt very humbled and ashamed. But I was able to purchase my high school diploma. In fact, I was able to graduate a year early.
Some years later I attend SMU. There was an uncle, on my mother’s side of the family. Uncle Adolphus. He had set up a family scholarship in the SMU school of Theology. Once I realized I did not have to study theology, I signed up at SMU. I was the poor boy at that party for a couple of years until the scholarship money ran out.
A decade and a half went by. I wanted to complete my undergraduate degree. My mother’s sister offered to hep me out. And so I applied to UTA (University of Texas at Arlington). My application was accompanied by transcripts from six previous institutions of higher learning. I had been taking scraps of education here and there over the years.
In 2003, at the gnarly age of 40, I finally received my undergraduate degree.
All my educational achievements could never have been realized without family resources. My parents were never rich. Nor were their parents. But it used to be that education was affordable. And it used to be that a life’s work was a clear way to generate the sort of savings one could easily call moderate wealth.
It is important for us all to understand that much of our successes in life are because people who cared, helped us. Very few folks “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” This is a myth, and one mostly favored by the rich when they are tweaking their own personal narratives. The implication being: “What can’t the poor get it together? Jeeze!”
It’s so clear to me that the aid which has been given to me by my family no longer can be generated by the lower middle class.
Think about it. A woman who ran a hat shop–a fucking hat shop!–was able to amass enough savings to own property, plan for her retirement, and yet still have funds left over to help out a fucked up imbecile great nephew. Who can envision something like happening in this day and age?
The above is a preface to the fact that a caring relative gifted me with a new truck, once she learned that my old one was suffering problems which I wasn’t able to afford to fix. I would have preferred that she’d just given me the money to fix the old truck. It’s still serviceable. But I’ve learned that it’s foolish (rude even–or so I tell myself) for one to dictate the terms of a large and altruistic gift.
So, to swallow the pride…. I gotta fucking new truck!