Friday, September 29, 2006

There But For The Grace of God

Of the several men painting our house, most are missing teeth and one is missing an arm. The leader of this rag tag home improvement team gives them $10 an hour, paid in cash at the end of each work day, or thereabouts. They lucked out on Thursday. The day's wages were tucked firmly in their pockets before the boss man drove off to a local dive, where an acquaintance of his jacked him at knifepoint for what little cash was left, a cooler of beer, and a pack of USA Gold Menthols.

There's a seedy side of life in this town that I don't see through the flimsy metal and tinted windows of a 1989 Dodge Caravan, or a trailer home, or a leaning duplex with shingles and steps that are rotting. During a visit downtown with my daughter in tow, voices from the open-doored bars are garbled by country music and the sizzle of fat in the fryer as I walk by. I inhale the aromatic wind of cheeseburgers and Tabasco, but otherwise I notice nothing. We cross the street to a clothing shop that, miraculously, hasn't been run out by the WalMart a town over. I don't buy anything because it's too expensive. I wonder who does.

I also wonder about the invisible line between my town's presentable facade and its underground. The median household income here is ranked 237 out of 245 Connecticut towns and cities. Many are living paycheck to paycheck, my household included. I think about how delusional I am as I go through each day focused on what's in front of me, oblivious to my surroundings and to the path that's precarious beneath my feet.

Any sense of stability is imaginary. I look at the gaping smiles of the painters on ladders and I see what it means to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or to make a bad, irreversible decision. I see why the weight of providing for a family and its future makes my husband's shoulders hunch a little more each day. Whether it's through bad luck or bad planning, what we have today could be gone tomorrow. He knows this. I should know this. We are partners.


lynsalyns said...

It is a terrible burden, a wonderful, dreadful burden, to raise and provide for a family. I see it my husband's face when he works the numbers over and over.

The future is unknowable. Glorious and terrifying all at once.

T. said...

Oh, this post hits home. Hubs has not worked all this week and now he won't be able to next week because of his illness.

It's not a far fall from the middle of our ladder to the bottom rung. And that is certainly very frightening.

I often wonder if I'm being selfish by being a stay at home mom, and putting the burden of providing our financial security squarely on my hubs shoulders.

Great post!

Whirlwind said...

That reminds me, I have a gift certificate to that store dating back to when Einey was born, I just never go there so I don't think about it. May be time to stop in.

And I know exactually what you mean about that invisible line. It's a line we walk everyday. On one hand, I want my kids to experience all that the town has to offer and on the other, I want to shield them from everything that goes on around them. Each day at the local playground, I keep a close eye on their whereabouts while trying to give them the freedom they deserve (which is why I like the other playground better due to the fact that not many people frequent it).

One of these days.....

Whirlwind said...

Did they finish the house yesterday? It looks much better with the trim (although I noticed there is an unpainted section on the bottom of the front porch as I drove by today).

Mrs. Chicky said...

That reminds me of some work I had done on my first house, the one I owned in my hometown. The work was completed perfectly, when the guys were sober. Let's just say that happy hour came early a few too many days. But given their lives (which was my life at the time) I didn't blame them too much.

jen said...

god. loved this post...i work w/ the homeless and see that side of the street daily, and know it doesn't take more than a few bad steps and we are on the same side. thanks for writing this.