I'm Poor and Live in Johnson County

"I'm Poor and Live in Johnson County." My mom used to wear that T-shirt when we were kids. You have to understand that Johnson County, for the most part, is an affluent area thriving with huge brand new houses and a major shopping district. I grew up in the small town of Spring Hill which wasn't quite as rich, but had some folks who could qualify as such. The town was just on the edge of the county and acted as a good mix to both splendorous living and country hick attitude. I didn't really see it until I got into high school and noticed that certain kids had nice brand-new cars and brand name clothing. Now that I am grown up and look back it makes me laugh out loud that Mom had the audacity to wear that shirt in front of what she considered snooty folks. Not only that, but it was bright yellow and she didn't always wear a bra. GO MOM.

After Dad left--after the big fight--we had our problems with money, but Mom was a determined woman and made sure we had a house and some food in the fridge. She worked at the local library carrying out the duties of librarian/social services worker, passing out government cheese and powdered milk to those in need. Sometimes we needed it just as much. Let's just say that I know what that cheese tastes like and it ain't spectacular, but you know . . . it was food. Though I did hate it when Mom put powdered milk in the empty plastic jug thinking that we would not know the difference. She also would mix cereals when boxes were almost empty. Picture a seven year old skipping down the steps only to find their breakfast a horrible mash of yucky bluish milk poured in fruit-loops and raisin bran. YUCK.

She received her paycheck two times a month, on Wednesdays, though sometimes we did not make it. I'm talking eating dry spaghetti and ice cubes for snacks. On those times when we were low on money and food, she would take IOU's out of the cash box at work and then re-pay it when her check came around. Criminal? She always paid it back. Gutsy, yes. She did what she had to do and it all worked out. We ate.

I can still see her wearing that bright yellow T-shirt standing above me at the baseball park, with the sunlight shining through her wind tousled red-hair. It's such an organic, beautiful memory. Mom and I haven't always had the best relationship, but I can say that I do love her so very much. She was, and I am. And that's that.


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