Chocolate Milk (“One Day, When We’re Rich and Famous …”)

Did your parent(s) plan for the future? Did they think more than one step ahead? Did they invest money or have a backup plan? Did they talk about it in your presence? Did they include you in the conversation or the process?

Mine did not. 

I was raised by a single mother until I was a teenager (and even after that, I never really had a father figure around). 

We moved a lot. I was spoiled by my grandmother, but I also definitely had the sense that we were poor. In fact, I was constantly reminded by my mother of the fact that we didn’t have money and she was doing the best that she could. 

At the same time, I never felt that my mother had a plan for not being poor. We just never talked about it. 

I never knew the reasons we moved to various cities, I never knew how much “big things” cost — like rent or vehicles. She didn’t own a home until many years later. And I didn’t have a real sense of the financial impact on the family if something was broken or went badly.

I know we scrimped and didn’t indulge in things very often. When we splurged on something, it was usually food — pizza delivery or a celebratory meal at a restaurant.

One of my most vivid memories is of chocolate milk. I loved chocolate milk as a kid. It wasn’t always available for lunch at school, but on Fridays, it was an option. I drank it nice and slow, savoring every sip as if it were a dessert.

When we would pass it in the grocery store, I would ask my mother if we could get some. Her response would always be the same, “One day, when we’re rich and famous, you can have chocolate milk.”

In fact, she said that about most things. 

“One day, when we’re rich and famous, you can have a bicycle like that.”

“One day, when we’re rich and famous, we’ll live in a house with a swimming pool.”

Well, I’m 45 now. I have two kids of my own. I’ve owned a house with a swimming pool. I can buy chocolate milk whenever I want, and I’m definitely not rich or famous. 

I have to wonder if talking about money is something you didn’t do in Wisconsin in the late 1970s … or are the only people who talk about money the people who already have it?

What’s your experience?

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