Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

MS DOESN’T CARE

As children, we seldom think about social or class distinction. We’re too busy being kids. We don’t see black and white, wealthy or poor, Democrat or Republican. That’s how it should be.

INNOCENCE ABOUNDS

My brothers and I were fed and sheltered. We had acres of green space to play on. Nature surrounded us. We swam in the river and collected lightning bugs in the summer. When it snowed, the sleds came out, and we secured ourselves to Dad’s back for the ride of our lives.

When our time at Riverview Country Club ended, Triadelphia CC took us one county away. We lived in the clubhouse building in an adjoining apartment to the industrial-sized kitchen and pro shop. My favorite memory of Triadelphia is the massive ballroom that hosted Thursday night Rotary meetings for which my mother cooked. When not used for business purposes, though, that ballroom served as my playground. I practiced pain lessons on the upright next to the beautiful fireplace that Mom decorated for Christmas each year.

After a good waxing, the floor of the ballroom was slick as glass, making a perfect ice skating rink. I spent hours gliding around the room dreaming of winning an Olympic gold. This was especially fun when Mom forked over a dime for the jukebox so I could perform my homemade skating routines to my favorite Beatles songs.

In the middle of my sixth-grade year, we moved to our final country club location. My youngest brother was a baby and my middle brother was in third grade. This move took us from our southern roots four hours north of our grandparents and collected family. People at Green Hills Country Club were predominantly Italian. They were loud and had unpronounceable names.

Classmates made fun of our southern accents and were behind us in academics, dispelling the belief that backwoods illiterates occupied the counties down south. They looked at me weird when I quoted The Jabberwock by Lewis Carroll.

My brother’s crew cut and my wardrobe of prim, mostly homemade dresses drew criticism from our blue jeans, t-shirt-clad classmates. I felt sorry for them. The only people who wore denim back home were poor. How could I know how wrong I was? I understood their judgments as much as I understood our shared misconceptions.

PERSPECTIVE

I’ve never considered myself a snob or a hoity-toity. My family was admittedly financially strapped, a fact blatantly obvious to my judgemental teenage self. We didn’t go on vacations like many of my classmates. Back-to-school shopping welded only the necessities.

The oldest (and only girl) of three children, I had a lot of unrealistic expectations. At the time, my immaturity wasn’t apparent to me. I wanted to fit in at school so badly. We lived in the boondocks and had one car. Dad focused most (all) his time on playing golf and betting on football games. Mom juggled attending college, raising us kids, keeping meals on the table, and doing her best to hold us together.

To the outside world, I enjoyed an enchanted life. We lived on the grounds of an exclusive country club miles away from town. An eighteen-hole golf course served as our front yard. We mingled with some of the wealthiest people in the tri-county area. My dad was a professional golfer, for goodness’ sake!

REALITY

We lived in a ramshackle mobile home on a rocky dead-grass lot. A small portion of the eighteenth fairway was visible from our front door. Mom, my oldest brother, and I worked in the pro shop (with no pay) selling those wealthy club members golf tees, renting out golf carts, and answering the telephone. Weekends and summer break from school sucked because we were too far from civilization for a social life. After receiving my lifeguard training, I worked in that capacity for several years (with pay:), often ending a long rotation to return (with no pay) to the pro shop until dark or whenever my dad chose to lock up shop.

RETROSPECT

I knew my family differed from those of my peers and, looking back, I have very few terrible memories. It’s difficult to appreciate what we had when it no longer exists.

I had big dreams. I wanted to travel the world and meet interesting people. When I left for college with one pair of ratty blue jeans, my dreams went with me. At the private college (financed through scholarships and a massive student loan I didn’t know about for many years), I attended how the rich lived.

When the Greek rush began, I was determined to be a part of all the glamour and fun, ignoring the financial strain this put on my mother’s bank account. My new sorority sisters represented everything I wanted to be. They were sophisticated and worldly and wanted me to embroider their blue jeans like the very pair spotlighted my lack of financial availability. I learned that old money wasn’t concerned with social distinction. They had never had to worry about it. They didn’t see me as their token charity case. Zeta Tau Alpha became my family. Their families included presidents, Noble Peace Prize winners, and Russian ballerinas. I declined a group trip to Georgia during my second spring break because I couldn’t afford it, unaware that our host, Rosaline Carter, grandmother of my pledge master, already paid for it. I began paying more attention to the background of my wealthy sorority sisters.

IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER

The biggest lesson I learned from these experiences is that the MonSter doesn’t care about finances or social status. If we’re lucky, we form relationships along our journey that mean more than the almighty dollar. Sure, my so-called sorority friends (where are they now?) can afford the best medical care and the shiniest rollators, but it doesn’t matter in the long run.

My father’s wealthy golf pals with their fancy sports cars and bottomless expense accounts might live the life many people desire, but that doesn’t make them immune to their personal MonSters.

I think about my one pair of embroidered bell-bottoms and wish I still had them. (It would be entertaining trying to fit my middle age butt into those size 5s!)

In the immortal words of Bill Murray in the 1979 film Meatballs,

It just doesn’t matter.

Do the best with what you have. The rest just doesn’t matter.

Lisa, The Lady With the Cane

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lisaannettemccombs

Lisaannettemccombs

July 1, 2001, six months after the birth of my only child, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.