Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH (08/31/17)
TITLE: Salt of the Earth
By JC Hummel
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The narrow, pebble dash row houses were crammed together, each one almost identical as the next. We lived in close quarters with our neighbors, dealing with them the best we could, and at times the lack of space between our properties tested our patience. Regardless of how we felt about the people next door, the pride of home ownership trumped any bad feeling we had about our circumstances.
Like most people, my family had never been rich, we’ve been working class as far back as we can remember. We worked hard, went to Mass every Sunday and tried to stay out of trouble. Our grandparents had been the first generation of home owners. A new government program in the 1930s made it possible for them to move out of the city tenements and in to the suburbs. They raised their children there and in turn passed the house down to our parents to raise us.
Some families were packed in like sardines. It wasn't unusual for parents to raise six or seven children in the 900 square feet residences and having two bedrooms and one bath was of no consequence, people made do.
We spent our summers playing Kick the Can and Snatch the Bacon. Most of the girls had skates, the old fashioned metal ones, with red leather straps that would eventually fray and break. We never threw the skates away, we would just replace the straps with an old pair of our mothers' nylons. Nobody cared.
We were snobby in our own way. Children had to be clean and well-behaved, any acting out was blamed on bad parenting. The brasses on the doors were always cleaned once a week, and the front steps were swept and scrubbed. The parlor was the room at the front of the house, where our china was displayed in the china closet. It was the ‘good room’, with a small sofa and chair and was always kept clean and tidy. It was reserved for visitors such as the parish priest or one of our snootier relatives.
People rarely moved off our street, so we knew each other’s histories, commemorations and losses. We had our fair share of neighborhood squabbles and break-in's by the local blackguards but those experiences were few and far between. Most people were good and decent, ‘salt of the earth people’ my mother would say.
Our neighborhood wasn't perfect but it provided a good start in life, a promise of who we could be. We could stay, of course, if we wanted and raise the next generation, or we could leave like so many did before us. Either way, our parents prepared us to be who we needed to be.
The world could take us under it’s wing and refine us, polish us, finish us off to be more respectable, but we would always be the same inside. We would always value who we were and appreciate the simple things in life.
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