Like so many kids who grew up in the seventies, Saturday nights for me and my sisters were about watching The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. “Julie McCoy” remains part of the language of our generation as [n.] the person who does all the party planning, and I bet we can all call up our best Herve Villechaize to say “Boss, boss! Ze plane, Ze plane!,” the way he would every week. Sometimes, we’d have special snacks while watching, especially if my parents were out at a dance at one Polish Home or another--maybe a bag of Stateline chips, or a box of Bugles to share. Who can honestly say they didn’t put a bugle on each fingertip, and maybe recite a little from the Wizard of Oz (I’ll get you, my pretty!), and then eat them one by one? Well, if you didn’t, you missed half the fun.
None of the three of us really wants to say that we were poor, afraid of the stigma, or afraid to hurt our parents’ feelings since they worked so hard for us…but looking back, it is clear that we were definitely working class folks. Lower middle class. We had a house over our heads and a car in the driveway, and there was always food on the table, in copious amounts on holidays, but we didn’t have a lot of extras. The extras we did have came our way because somewhere our parents did without. They didn’t tell us that. I just know. I didn’t then, but I know now. And I am in awe.
Somehow, they raised three daughters and sent us all to college on blue collar wages. I have a Masters Degree now, and I work as a teacher; with no children of my own in diapers or braces, I suffer mild panic attacks if my car needs work. $350 for a water pump and timing belt puts a dent in my budget. I can’t imagine if I had tuition bills to pay. They came to this country, not knowing the language, and took their best shot at the American dream.
So I’m not embarrassed to say we grew up without extras, that we were a working class, blue collar family. It makes me proud of my parents to acknowledge their, our, humble beginnings.
And it makes those Bugles taste even better.