A Gift of Class

A child can be easily deceived. The misperceptions they already have can be skewed to make them believe any number of falsehoods. There are the innocent lies like making them believe in Santa Claus. And the hurtful ones such as telling them that they will never be worth anything. And then there are deceptions that forever change their lives and last well into adulthood. My Mother, and sometimes my Father, created such a ruse and it made my siblings and me the people we are today.

For me, it started one Christmas. My sisters and brother were treated nicely by Santa and it was the year my folks gave me a new drum set. It made me feel as though we were the richest family in town, although looking back I realize my parents surely went into debt to give us those things. You see, we were far from anything that resembled rich. This isn’t something I would advocate for other parents to do and I don’t recall any other Christmas being so bountiful in our household. It took place just that once… but it was part of the larger con us kids were victims of.

The trickery went on throughout my childhood; although subtle hints were present everywhere. When my Father died, my Mother chose to have the same preacher speak at his service that performed services at my Grandmother’s funeral the previous month. (Dad wasn’t familiar with anyone or anything church related.) I remember thinking it was odd that the preacher spoke of Dad as being open to anyone visiting his house. He said that he found Dad very welcoming when he came there a few weeks earlier and he had him come to the kitchen and sit at our table to discuss details about my Grandmother. I thought “Well of course he did. Where else would you have a sit-down?” I didn’t realize that others didn’t treat people the way we did.

But for the most part, my Mother had me fooled throughout my adolescence. It wasn’t until much later in life that it occurred to me how masterfully she had crafted the deception. Then it hit me: I grew up poor. All those years I remember thinking we were a typical middle-class family, yet all the while it was just that I had been duped by my Mother. I may have been jealous of my well-to-do friends and their homes, but never did I feel inferior. More importantly I never felt, even now, that I was in any way superior to those less fortunate. Mom lied to me, in the best of ways, and made me believe there were no social classes in our society.

It isn’t the gifts we give our children at Christmas that really matter. What is important is the way we make them perceive the world around them. The material things will satisfy their immediate wishes and bring joy to their hearts for only a short period of time. May I suggest that this year, and for many others to come, that we lie to our children and grand-children… make them believe the world has no prejudice, no bigotry, no bias, and we are all of one social class.

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