The AARP Bulletin’s "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader Helen Grippo of Raleigh, N.C., shares what she really knows about making ends meet.
I still remember the sound of a dime dropping into the little glass hen that sat atop our icebox. On Saturday mornings, two of my brothers and I met in the kitchen to ask if Dad could spare a dime. When he could, he held up the coin and studied it, probably thinking that 10 cents might be better used for food. When the dime clinked into the glass hen, we children could hardly wait until evening to spend it.
Baby brother made us a family of six, and we seldom had money for extras. Dad worked in a steel mill, and Mother sewed for neighbors. They struggled to clothe and feed us but had a lot to say about getting a good education. Dad had only finished the third grade, Mother the eighth.
When the streetlights came on, Dad retrieved the dime and handed it to my brothers and me. We raced outside and sat on the curb until the words “Sunday morning Post-Globe pa-per” began to echo again and again. Finally the newsboy stopped near us, and we paid our dime for the paper.
Back inside, my brothers and I sat on the floor and quickly leafed through the paper to the comics. Mother and Dad and baby sat on the couch. I had the honor of reading aloud Krazy Kat, Dick Tracy, Tillie the Toiler and on and on and over and over again. How we all enjoyed the comics! The paper was our only reading material, and from it we children learned the importance of reading, listening and getting a good education. We learned because our parents somehow managed to make ends meet—with a dime to spare.