I ask you, is there a song which, every time you hear it, reminds you of a certain period of your life? A time full of happy (or sad) memories? Do you get nostalgic every time you hear this certain song? A song you can relate to? When you hear the lyrics you can readily identify with them?
I do. And I do. And I do.
There are actually a handful of songs which evoke nostalgia, but I’ll talk about one in particular today. The song is called (10) and Counting, performed by Boy Sets Fire.
This song describes a time when you’re so downtrodden, so destitute, that you’re literally scraping to make ends meet. In this song they dealt with the pain by escaping through alcohol, which is something I have become familiar with in recent years. Nevertheless this song still reminds me of my senior year in high school.
My mother, my brother, and I all shared an apartment in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. My step-dad (who is a ginormous douchecanoe who married my mother even though he was in the closet) was an over-the-road truck driver. He decided, for reasons I don’t know, to stop sending money home to help pay the rent. My mother worked 3rd shift at Wal-Mart. She barely brought home enough money to make her car payment and pay the rent.
So my brother and I got part-time jobs. Well, mine was supposed to be part-time and it ended up being full-time which almost caused me to flunk out of school, but that’s another post for another time. I got a job working for Mr. Gatti’s pizza and my brother worked for KFC.
Because we both worked for restaurants, and we both closed every night, we were able to bring food home every night. Since there was hardly any money for groceries this food was our salvation.
Each night my brother and I would get home at roughly the same time and we’d eagerly exchange our food as I was tired of pizza and he was tired of chicken.
“Give me the hot wings!” I’d yell.
“Give me the pizza, bitch!” he’d retort.
All of this was said endearingly, of course.
So we would trade food and leave the leftovers in the fridge for mom and for breakfast in the morning. We literally subsisted on pizza and chicken for most of the school year. I’d often get called in on my days off to work. Being that I was working full-time, in addition to being a full-time student, I was frequently fatigued and indifferent when I received these calls. But they knew all they had to do was say, “I’ll let you have a couple free pizza’s,” and I’d say yes. Lord only knows what they thought of me for being so easy to bribe with free food, but that food fed my family so I really didn’t care what they thought.
On the nights I closed, I was able to make my own pizzas. Mr. Gatti’s made their dough fresh daily and pitched whatever was left over at the end of the day. So instead of pitching it all, those of us who closed were allowed to make our own pizza after everything was finished for the night. My specialty was affectionately dubbed, “the mo’ cheese pizza.” My brother and I loved this. Each night I’d pile pepperoni and sausage onto the crust and then pile loads of cheese on the pizza – hence the name mo’ cheese – and, wa la, we had our pizza. Once, cooked, this pizza looked like a lake full of melted, gooey cheese that you could just swim in. And it was fantastic.
In addition to going to school and working, my nights were spent caring for a one-year old girl. See, one of my mom’s co-workers had been beaten by her boyfriend. The boyfriend was convicted and sent to jail, but the coworker couldn’t afford to live on her own. So mom let her move in with us. She worked 3rd shift as well, so it was left to me to care for the daughter while they were at work. Luckily the little girl was very easy to care for. She was well-behaved and always slept through the night.
Some might say or think that these are sad, or even grim, memories. The fact that we had no money for food didn’t matter to us as we were able to get food via other avenues. We didn’t need gas money because both KFC and Mr. Gatti’s were within walking distance of our apartment. I look back fondly on these days. Even though we didn’t have much, we had each other and that was all we needed. We had many a great time every night trading our food and telling each other about our respective days. Plus, it felt a little rewarding to be able to help mom out in whatever small ways we could. We both brought enough food home every night that the only thing we really ever needed to get from the grocery store were a few odd and end things such as napkins, paper plates, and beverages. Even though most of my money was going into a savings account so I could get my own car, I pitched in a couple of times to pay the utility bills. This time in my life taught me a lot of lessons, the most important of which is this: money doesn’t equal happiness. You can be dirt-poor and still be happy.