Our family wasn't wealthy. We probably weren't even middle class. But I would not have known, not that any of it would have made any sense to me back then. As a kid on Back River, I was genuinely happy. I had plenty of toys. We had a big floor model television, for which I served as the remote control. You see, back then televisions had two knobs (yes, mechanical knobs) which you had to turn to tune in a station. The upper knob was for your VHF channels (think ABC, NBC & CBS) and the lower knob was for the UHF channels (all the others on the higher double digit stations). So when my mother wanted to switch from channel 2 to channel 13, she would send be to turn the knob. I loved the job, it felt like I was operating an important machine of some kind.
I watched all the television shows that all boys watched at the time, the A-Team, Knight Rider, Air Wolf, The Dukes of Hazzard, He-Man, G.I. Joe, and so many others. At the time these shows had me enthralled. They were adventurous tales of whimsy. I've tried watching several of these shows as an adult and I realize just how empty and shallow they were and I am amazed that I ever managed to become literate. My literacy, like so much else, is because of my mom. My mother loved to read. And she loved to read to me. Some of my favorite memories are sitting on my mother's lap while she read to me. Sometimes she read me children's stories, sometimes she read me the news paper sometimes she read me whatever she was reading herself at the time, like Lee Iacocca's autobiography, "Lee Iacocca: An Autobiography". Reading the autobiography of a world famous business executive to a 6 or 7-year-old might sound silly because it is. But I didn't care. I just loved the sound of her voice when she read. My mother was a shockingly good aloud reader. If you think about it, it can be difficult to read something aloud and sound natural unless you wrote it yourself or you have read it previously. My mother seemed to have a natural knack for it. The best was when she would read something that would strike her as funny and she would belt out with a loud belly laugh. My mother had a deep laugh that filled a room and warmed the soul. It was the sort of contagious laugh that made you laugh along even if you had no idea what was being laughed at. My mother instilled in me a lifelong love of literature.
My mother also instilled in me a work ethic. In the summer when school was out, my mother would often take me to work with her. A lot of her work was at night, so if she was working nights I stayed home with my sister. But if she worked during the day, or on the weekend, I went along. My mother was working as a janitor at the time, for a janitorial company (she would later strike out on her own). She sometimes cleaned the offices of a law firm called RRS (Rattree, Robinson and ???). When we went there my job was to empty all the trash cans, sweep the atrium and clean around the base of the toilets. I can remember the atrium well because there was an enormous RRS on the floor there which was perfect for driving my matchbox cars around, and a long winding staircase that was great for rolling the cars down (the offices were empty when mom worked). She sometimes worked a local bank. When we went there my job was to empty all the trash cans, restock the deposit slips, change the dates on all the little calendars at the counters where customers filled out their deposit slips, and I would go behind the teller station and pick up all the bank slips and receipts they dropped (which was a lot). Sometimes they dropped money. My mother always taught me to collect the money and we would count it and leave it on the counter behind the teller station with a note saying how much we found and where. She said that sometimes tellers dropped money by accident. Sometimes it was dropped on purpose to test our honesty. But either way, it was not ours to take, and that if we did she could lose her job and maybe worse. So with the fear of risking my mother's job, I always took careful account of every penny found and looked especially hard to be sure I found all the dropped money, lest we be accused of taking some.
She also sometimes cleaned a local Gold's Gym. I don't remember going there as often, but when we did my work was pretty well limited to emptying the trash and picking up any trash that had been dropped on the floor. One universal constant was that whenever I worked, I got paid. My mother was very adamant that an honest day's work deserves honest wages. So it was that I learned both to relax and enjoy my free time, and to enjoy the benefits of hard work. I also learned never to give my labor away for free.