Time back

In the pandemic, all we have is time

Before I became a mom, I had a lot of time. Some of this time was spent blogging, because I used to be a freelance writer, and I used to write “first-person journalism.” I missed this kind of writing so I enjoyed blogging. Mostly I remember blogging about how much things cost, because it was so fascinating to me how much people would spend on stuff, and what did that mean about how much they earned. Because I was always trying to figure out what I myself could afford to buy, and how much more I would have to work to attain it.

I was broke for many years, so much so that you are not an old friend of mine unless you have lent me money in a pinch, or have offered to lend me a considerable sum, or wrote a check to a store for me so I wouldn’t be arrested for writing a bad check. I was almost evicted from my apartment, and I was banned from banking in the state of New York. I have very fond memories of Banco Popular, the Bank of Puerto Rico, which was the only bank that allowed me to open a checking account after Chemical Bank (remember them) kicked me out.

That was almost thirty years ago. How strange to be so much older, when the memories of life from that time are so clear. I have been rich for much longer now than I was broke, and when I mean rich, I mean I don’t have to pause when I find a wallet left in the bathroom stall anymore. I automatically give it to the host at the restaurant to find the rightful owner. When I was broke I found a wallet in a dingy bar bathroom stall and I counted the money in it, which was more than I had in mine, and it took a Herculean effort not to steal the cash. It was physically painful. But now I’m rich so I didn’t even open the wallet.

I don’t think people understand how hard it is to make ends meet unless you have been there. My parents used to be Crazy Rich Asian types. My dad had his own investment bank. But when we moved here, we were struggling immigrants. They ran the employee cafeterias in the back of several Sears and JC Penney stores. I remember going to Costco with my dad, going through checkout with two huge pallets which took, what, fifteen, twenty minutes to process? and then the cashier telling my dad his check wouldn't go through. We had to walk away without any of the things we needed to serve food that week. I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t understand why we couldn't buy the things in our two huge loading carts. I remember being so embarrassed, as our inability to pay held up the line and wasted everyone’s time. Everyone could see we couldn’t afford it. It was humiliating. But my dad just shook his head and walked out, while I followed behind, confused (I didn’t understand how checks worked at the time). He didn’t let it get to him. He was doing his best. We went back a week later when we had the money.

Anyway, I was broke for a long time and then I was not broke. Mostly because my boyfriend, now husband, is a very frugal man, and makes sure we not broke anymore. It’s a nice thing, being able to order sushi without having to wait for the Tuesday half-off special. I try to remember that.

This was supposed to be about how I have so much more time for this kind of writing now because of the pandemic and because my child is now a teenager. Maybe I’ll write about that next time.