Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. Sometimes we refer to it as self induced poverty because the reason for it was my dad getting a PhD. He went to Ohio State, excuse me, The Ohio State University. You know they trademarked the, THE right? Anyway, he did his undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, and he did his masters and PhD at THE Ohio State University.
School is expensive in itself. Student loans, books, but also in the loss of wages. No job. We made do and as a small child I was none the wiser. Because of our self induced poverty, SIP, small things that I take for granted now, and my kids definitely take for granted, I thought were the most amazing things in the world. One example, getting a Happy Meal. This was back in the day when McDonalds Happy Meal Toys were legit. The toys were well made and you could play with them for a forever. Happy Meals in daily life were extremely rare. It could be a reward after getting your shots for school. Maybe for your birthday. The only time we could get them in excess was a road trip. On road trips, we were able to stop at McDonalds several times. Collecting variations in the current toy collection they were featuring. Our favorite toy series was the Barbie dolls. My uncle called them pin head Barbie’s because their heads were so small. There were a few variations. There were also cabbage patch dolls that were fun. Same size as the barbies and had yarn hair.
If we ever got a duplicate on one of these road trips, my mom would go up to the counter and trade it out for a different one. This was also the era when McDonalds had cookie boxes. That is a story for another time though.
Candy bars were also something special. My mom did 2 week grocery shopping. We stocked up and when we were out of something we waited until the next shopping trip. She had the meal planning and snack planning down to an art. If I went with my Mom on the 2 week shopping trip and helped her, which I usually did because as the 2nd out of 4 kid I wanted the alone time, I usually could convince her to get me a candy bar. This was the only time I really got candy. I remember that they were .25 cents. 4 for a dollar. When they went up to .33 3 for a dollar a few years later, we were outraged. Who do they think they are, charging 3 for a dollar for a Hersheys Bar? Oh if only I had known what lay ahead.
The ultimate luxury was a hotel. When I was younger and we were moving cross country, we had to break our trip down into several days. We stayed at Motel 6 at night time and it was the very definition of luxury to me. Whenever I would see those signs, I would get so excited for what was in store for me. At this point it was just three kids. My older sister, myself, and then our third sister who was just a year old. My older sister and I would go into the hotel room and marvel at the beauty. The tightly made beds. The clean vacuumed floors. The TV’s with cable which included the coveted Disney channel. Cable was expensive back then and at home we were limited to just a few basic channels. Best of all out of all the luxuries were the soaps. Not soap operas. Like literal bars of soap. The soaps with the waxy paper wrapping. The soaps that were so fancy that they had the Motel 6 logo actually imprinted into the soap. My older sister and I ended up with a few soaps each at then end of the trip. We would save them and smell them ultimately, while being so careful with them as not to break them. We never used them and I’m sure they’re sitting somewhere in a box of our childhood things in storage.
Life can be good, whether you have a lot or not. There is always something to look forward to, whether it’s the latest McDonald’s Barbie toy, a bar of soap, or maybe if you had more money, a new bike.
I don’t think I have stayed in a Motel 6 in over 30 years, but when I pass them, I can almost smell the soap in the air as I drive by. The memory forever in tact in my mind.