7 Lessons learned from growing up poor

The important things we learn in our lives, we learn as children. How to play nice, get ourselves ready for bed, and why we shouldn’t run barefoot through wheat fields.
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The most valuable lessons I learned are from growing up poor.

Lessons learned growing poor

Lesson 1 – Let the children be children

I didn’t know I grew up poor during my teenage years. It wasn’t until my parents told stories of those trying times later in life. I love those old stories. <3

As a single mom for many of my son’s young years, money still was not in abundance. We had many $5 weekends and several zero dollar weekends. But I didn’t let my son know of the struggle until…we could have $50 or $100 weekends. 😉

My dad and mom should feel proud of that statement.

Our home was a happy place, and we had our basic needs. We were not different from other families in our small town. Times were simple. We handmade or handed down things from clothes to furniture.

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Lesson 2 – Make it

My dad found rough pieces of 4 x 4 wood and made a bunk bed for my brother and me. It was huge and, the top bunk was inches from the ceiling. Since I was older, the top bunk was mine. Then daddy painted it black!

Back then, the best part of the bunk bed was when we moved, and it wouldn’t fit through the door. We had to leave it in the house. It’s most likely still in that little four-room house!

Now I know the best part of that bunk bed was that daddy made it.

Lesson 3 – Learn a skill

Mom made all my dresses and tried to get me to love pink. Still, I wouldn’t say I like pink, but I loved the dresses I wore to school.  My sewing skills are not as gifted as my mom’s. However, I did make a jacket from a piece of upholstery fabric for a job interview. I got the job…even with the jacket.

By the way, I still sew barefoot!

Lesson 4 – Use what’s available..and change it up

I do remember eating a lot of chicken. Every night we had chicken for months and months. Fried, baked, added to noodles and soups.

I didn’t know that each evening, as daddy left work, he would drive not towards home but away from home. He drove off into a wood area and did not return until he shot a rabbit. Then head home for mom to cook the “chicken.” He knew I would never knowingly eat a rabbit.

One day daddy walked in the door with the usual bag he immediately gave to mom, and under his arm was a baby bunny. I didn’t make the connection. Years later, I found out. Dad had shot the mother, and then as he turned to leave, saw the baby under a bush. He gathered it up and set it in the front seat to bring home.

Lesson 5 – Care for others in need

My brother and I learned to care for a baby bunny. We never had that funny-tasting chicken again.

Lesson 6 – Enjoy the simple times

The cement pond daddy made. Daddy dug a four-foot square hole about 10 inches deep. I remember dad having me lay down in the hole to measure my height. He wanted me to be able to lay down in the pool. Each day of that hot summer, we filled the “cement” pond with the garden hose. My brother and I played until we pruned! The Beverly Hillbillies pond didn’t hold a candle to our pond.

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The hole to the old cellar. | Country Design Style | countrydesignstyle.com

Lesson 7 – Stop and regroup

During grades 1 through 12, I attended nine different schools.  The first moves Dad found new work with better pay.  In the later years, we moved because dad discovered his passion, the Army.  

If you find yourself in a bad place, stop.  

Do something else, try something new, or make a jacket from upholstery fabric!

Lessons learned growing poor grandma and me | Country Design Style | countrydesignstyle.com
Grandma and me

Another valuable lesson, if you have a gray streak like your grandma,

don’t color it!

Bonus Lesson

Moving back home can make you feel as though you’ve come full circle.

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  1. steve sammut says:

    I love this. So many things i can relate to as i was growing up, not in rural America, but in the big city, San Francisco (whew). My parents came here after WWII from Europe. Even though they were married there, Dad came without his wife in order to be “settled” before she came to begin a family. A few years later and a long trip across the Atlantic alone on a big ship, she met my dad in San Francisco and life began. We didn’t have much as compared to others, but we never wanted for anything…or even knew we needed anything. Mom cooked and baked and nothing went to waste. Old bread was thrown into the bin for bread pudding. There were no leftovers. You ate what was in front of you or you didn’t eat. It didn’t take long to learn that life lesson! In order to have spending money, my brother and I had paper routes…usually 2 each (morning and afternoon). You learned to appreciate everything you had and you took care of it. I’m smiling now as I think about those days. Thanks for helping me bring back those memories!

    1. Steve, I loved reading about your simple youth. It must have been frightening for your mom and dad coming to a new country. Plus they did it separately. Mike and I were just talking about bread pudding and its humble beginnings. Now, most “fancy” restaurants have it on the dessert menu. It’s still my favorite.

  2. Andi Cacciatore says:

    Beautiful memories and lessons learned! We have similar childhood experiences, but not the moving. I also grew up in a 4 room house with a hallway kitchen between the bathroom and bedroom. Fresh caught fish (and bait straight from the brick worm pits in our aunt’s backyard across the street), not any rabbits – that I know of! Our sofa was made from the backseat of an old car, my Dad just added hairpin wrought iron legs that he made himself! Wish I had that couch now. Homemade clothes are the best, I could feel the love when I wore them, and so are the old stories – they become more precious with more telling!

    1. Andi, I enjoy hearing the old stories. We did have similar childhoods. I spent last weekend with my mom and aunt and we talked for hours about the old times.

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