When I was a child, Sundays were always special. It started by going to church, going home, changing out of our “church clothes” into play clothes, having lunch and then piling in the old Buick for our Sunday afternoon ride.
With my brother and I in the backseat and my parents in the front, we’d head off for one of two destinations–a visit with our favorite cousins or a trip to a local park called Petrifying Springs for an ice cream cone. We could have had any flavor we wanted as long as it was chocolate, vanilla, or New York Cherry. You have to remember Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors hadn’t come to town yet.
Even though my brother and I knew the outcome of our Sunday afternoon ride, we always looked forward to them. Dad always tried to make it exciting by taking different routes to the destination—but even as small children, we knew if we saw Lake Michigan we would see or cousins in just a few minutes. It didn’t matter where we would end up because we had a good time in either place.
Today it’s hard to imagine children would be delighted with a single scoop New York Cherry ice cream cone, but it was one of my favorite memories of my childhood. Our life was simple, but it was good.
Dad worked in a muffler factory and Mom stayed home. By today’s standards we were poor, but we didn’t know it. We always had enough to eat and a pair of shoes that fit. My mother had a knack for stretching a dollar as far as it could possibly go. She cut our hair, sewed our clothes, canned all the vegetables we ate, made jams and jellies, plus she kept our home so clean you could have eaten off the floors at any time day or night. (I never got that gene.)
On Friday evening, Dad would take his meager check to the bank, cash it, save a couple of bucks for himself and hand off the rest of the money to my mother to buy the rest of the food, pay the bills and save a little for a rainy day. He also gave John and me an allowance of 25 cents–a dime for church, a dime to save, and a nickel for something we’d like to buy for ourselves. It wasn’t until we were in about Second Grade that we got a pay raise to 50 cents. Then it was a dime for church, a dime for girl scout dues, a quarter for the bank (we each had a Christmas savings by then), and a nickel to spend on ourselves.
Growing up like this taught us a lot about money and life. We knew having almost enough was okay. And I don’t think I could cope with my circumstances of my adult life if my childhood had been filled to the brim with new bikes, store-bought clothes and every toy a kid could imagine. Instead, it was filled with enough love and an ice cream cone on Sunday. And that’s okay.