I have told this story to my kids multiple times, each time the outcome is still surprisingly amazing to me…
One summer as a young teenager, my mom and I went on a float trip down the Truckee River from Tahoe City. We’d all done this trip as a family many times. This particular time, it was just my mom and I, and we were using a raft that we had brought for the 3 hour trip, rather than rent one from the two companies that pump people into the river on rafts for a nice chuck of change.
We had just recently gone back to school shopping for the upcoming school year. I was able to pick out one new outfit and one new pair of shoes. I remember this very clearly. It was a big deal, this one new outfit and one pair of shoes. Years prior, and again in future years, there were additional items added to the one outfit, one pair of shoes, but during this period in life, it was one of each, and I knew it was important and to be appreciated.
I brought my new pair of white Keds back to school tennis shoes with me on that float trip with my mom. About 1/2 hour into our trip, one of my brand new pair of shoes went over the side of the raft, and got carried away with the current below instantly. I was already a kid that worried in general. Now, this float trip, I sat in a silent worried agony. The guilt of losing a new shoe that I knew was worked hard for by my parents was disabling to say the least. I was old enough to know, that at this time in our lives, replacing those shoes wasn’t something that would just necessarily happen. I was old enough to know not to suggest ‘just write a check for new ones’ as I had believed in my younger years that as long as we had the paper checks, we could buy things.
Two hours of trying to enjoy myself with my mom on such an awesome float trip with beautiful sights and fun stops to swim, while secretly suffering in guilt and worry was taking a toll. Forget ‘how do I get from the river through the parking lot with one shoe’. It was more ‘how do I go to school with one shoe’. I don’t remember talking about my worry to my mom, I just dealt with, ‘you get one outfit and one pair of shoes’ in my mind repeatedly.
With about 20 minutes left in the raft trip, I was enjoying myself. I sat on the edge of the raft, feet in the water looking around. I looked down into the water, and I kid you not, my overboard white Keds shoe was tossing and turning with the current along the bottom of the river, directly under our raft. I jumped in, got the shoe, and carefully placed it with it’s pair for the duration of the ride.
When I tell this story to my kids, they just can’t believe I found my shoe, what a cool surprise. For me, when I tell this story, all the feelings of worry and guilt from that day come to surface, along with the sense of relief that I felt in not having to burden my parents with an additional purchase.
When I was in my young 20’s, I worked in medical billing for a large clinical laboratory. A conversation with another co worker ended with her saying in a snide voice ‘Well, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.’ Maybe she had this impression of me because I was a carefree young 20 something that spent her money on rent and beer while counting down the days until a trip to Cabo with my roommates that we saved for, rather than using my paycheck for real life things like kids and medical expenses. Maybe I had talked about my family back at home, my parents and two brothers that go on cool trips like Hawaii and dude ranches now, and that is why she had this impression of me. Not sure what exactly gave her the impression that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was offended as hell.
I called my dad that night. I thanked him for working so hard all his life for us. For picking things up and making a better life than it even had been before. When I was a young teenager, my dad’s partner in business literally ran away in the middle of the night with all that the business had, leaving my dad in a situation forced to make very hard financial decisions for our family. As an adult and as a parent, I can now realize that those years for my parents must have been extremely stressful. As a kid back then, I was happy. My brothers were happy. My dad worked his ass off and was able to enjoy the result of the stock market boom. A bit of irony that I of course had already moved out of the house when Hawaii, dude ranches, and a Corvette were part of our family’s picture, but it’s all good. I’m not too sure what my dad thought about that thank you call, but I’ve always remembered it.
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And I didn’t like being accused of it. I think I was so offended by the comment because it took away from how hard my dad, and my mom worked to allow for our family to enjoy, and not to struggle. And for that woman to just see the end result rather than the work behind it, was offensive and disrespectful. It felt like a slap in the face to the struggles, and hard work that was done in order to enjoy some pretty cool experiences. A great life, whether in Hawaii, or diving in the Truckee river to retrieve my miracle lost white Keds.