I was fortunate enough to grow up in Chichester, NH. My mom worked as an English teacher for High School students at the State Hospital in Concord, NH and my father, self-employed, ran a store he named, Valu-Mart, which was located next to our house on Route 4. My two brothers and my sister and I all worked at the store. Whether it was for a couple of hours when we got home from school running the register, or traveling with my dad to warehouses to pick up stock to sell, or doing the annual inventory, it was a given that the store- I think of it more like The Store- was part of our everyday life. And while my mother's job provided us with some stability and benefits, we were all aware that the fortunes of our family were tied to the viability of the store.
I think it is because of my childhood that I enjoy the animated TV Show, Bob's Burgers. My family was not as clever, creative or prone to bursting out in song as the Belcher Family, but we had our share of eccentric episodes- and because of that, it has a special place in my heart. For a detailed description of the show, I encourage you to check out wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob's_Burgers
There is so much to love about Bob's Burgers- the excessive bathroom humor, the erotic-friend-fiction, Beefsquatch, Mr. Jim Business- but what I want to talk about today is the fact that this family, much like my family growing up, live very much tied to the financial fate of a struggling family business and though it is sometimes the focus of a episode, it often isn't. Much like it's live action predecessor, Roseanne, or its current day counterpart, The Middle, it depicts a working class family. I didn't know how much I would like seeing that until I spent a lot of time with people who had no idea what a working class family was really like.
I spent four years at an independent boarding school. I got a full ride except for the work study job in the cafeteria and the thousands of dollars I had to earn on my vacations to pay tuition. Oh, and the loans. I paid off my high school loans four years after I was out of college.
I was not the only one in my situation there, but we were not the norm. The norm seemed to be preppy clothes and holidays in Vail. I remember being in an ethics class where the discussion centered around the SAT. Students in the class begin passionately deriding the test because the "poor" kids can't read because they don't own books and so they won't score well on SATs... I mean how would they even know what the word "equestrian" would mean? Their "defense" of the "poor" made me so angry, though in retrospect I can see that it was not arrogance so much as well-meaning ignorance. I was blown away that they would presume that someone's financial position would prevent them from books. Granted, there is something to Mazlow's basic human needs, that if you don't have food or shelter, you probably are not accessing secondary items, but they were talking about kids who were taking the SAT- those kids had enough resources to be taking the test, so why wouldn't they have time to read the word "equestrian?" It was implied in their comments that working class kids live in this impossible grind where there is no fun. I am the first to admit that I did nothing to change that. I didn't say much, but shifted away from those with privilege, breaking up with a boyfriend before Spring break, where he was going skiing and I was going home to work, but not wanting to talk about it.
Because I knew, like the middle class families on TV, that even though we lived a tight life, I was fortunate. That the lower end of the middle class meant I had the security of a home and food. And that everyone, no mater their circumstances, finds fun. That's why I like Bob's and the Middle- Growing up, we went to Disney World on vacation- but not like the families around me now, or even how I took my own family- with week long itineraries and meal plans. We went to Disney like we were on a prison break. My dad had been down in Florida buying tools for The Store and told my mom he missed her. She yanked me and my siblings out of school, threw one-way airplane tickets on the credit card, and blammo! We were in Disney. On the lam! This was back in the day when mid January was relatively empty at the Happiest Place on Earth. We convinced our parents to ride on Space Mountain ( they thought it was a science ride about the solar system), we were amazed by the ghost holograms in the Haunted Mansion and laughed at the inmate trying to get the key from the dog in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Our drive home was on a converted school bus my dad had rigged up to take to flee markets, keeping scrap books as a nod to "homework" for the impromptu vacation from school. I still have my "Virginia Is For Lovers" bumpersticker. I will never forget the excitement of leaving our lives for a week.
So when I watch Bob and Linda make the best of their situation, find the money to send Gene to baseball camp, pull together a Christmas for their kids, work through holidays because you keep The Store open, I get a warm fuzzy feeling that is most certainly appreciation for the childhood my parents made for me, despite the stress they must have endured over whether a bill would be paid, or an end would be met. Though they may not have had the adventures of working families on TV, there was that time my father bartered for my braces with silver coins he got by selling chords of wood to people for silver....stuff for the next novel....