Christmas in the Lower East Side

It’s The Hard Knock Life

Jose Vilson Jose 9 Comments

Christmas in the Lower East Side

Christmas in the Lower East Side

From standing on the corners boppin’ …

Actually, I was never on the corner. Unlike some of my fellow Lower East Siders, I wasn’t known to be in the corner. I rarely fought, though I have a well-kept mean streak, a byproduct of the additional defense mechanisms developed to guard me from harm here. My mother provided me with a solid support system. We were by no means rich, but the ideals she instilled in me made me a relatively easy child to raise.

Before my stepfather came into the picture, my mom and I lived by ourselves in a little apartment; we had a good relationship with the grocer who’d “loan” us milk and food so we’d have enough to eat for the week. We survived family friends trying to burn our house down out of jealousy, roaches and rats as daily inhabitants, lack of water and heat in our apartment, and a few family scuffles.
When my stepfather stepped into the picture, despite his (and consequently my) issues, we were able to make ends meet more readily.

But it always annoyed me when dudes broke out with 150$ Jordans and I could barely get the Ewings. While others got a million games for their video game systems, I only had a few. I never had the luxury of going to the latest concert or have any connections to some music artist or celebrity. I never even got to participate in the big events everyone else did like when the NBA All-Star Game came to NYC or any of the comic book conventions my friends went to. The worst part is, at that age, kids are so willing to flaunt their luxuries in the faces of those who have not.

Sometimes, it made me resentful, but more than anything, it helped me build character. It forced me to rethink my finances and become responsible. More than anything, my upbringing made me much more self-reliant. Nowadays, while I’m still very limited in my purchases, I get whatever’s within my means. I’m patient with purchases, and have a better sense of prices.

So I think about this Christmas and how this recession’s “affecting” Christmas shopping, but for people like me, the recession’s been around forever, and we’re the better for it since we already know how to handle it.

More important than the blessings we get are the blessings we already have. And in that alone, I have a ton …

Jose, who wonders what you’re doing for your holiday celebrations …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 9

  1. Hugh O'Donnell

    Oh, and for the holidays, I’m just tryin’ to keep up. My goal is lots of smiling faces and a happy wife and visiting (from Philly) mother-in-law who is possibly the most generous person on the planet.

    My son and his girlfriend stopped by, had breakfast with us, exchanged very thoughtful gifts, and took off to central Oregon to visit her family for the next couple of days. We’re dogsitting his English Setter (future hunting dog) pup who’s the most lovable critter around.

    And that’s the report from Hillsboro…how’s the Big Apple?

  2. Alisha

    Merry Christmas, Jose! I liked this post. I, too, developed character from an upbringing that stressed hard work and achievement. I pray daily that while I provide my daughter with what I could not have that I do not fail to give her the things that helped me to develop character. . .

  3. Amber

    Hey.
    Bear with me adjusting into my new identity as I use my gov’t in that “name” box up there.

    “The worst part is, at that age, kids are so willing to flaunt their luxuries in the faces of those who have not.”

    Jose, some people never leave that age. So now they have television shows (TMZ) and channels and magazines to overwhelm us with the lifestyle afforded by their filthy lucre.

    I too had humble beginnings. And I plan to have a humble, although more financially sound, ending as well.

    Love and Merry Christmas.
    B, – -I mean Amber.

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  5. Graham Wegner

    Jose, I really appreciate this post. It helped me to reflect a bit of how my upbringing has shaped me in both good and bad ways – even though it is literally a world away from yours. What it has done is get me really thinking about how much influence I can have on my own two young sons as they grow up – how do I ensure that they develop self-reliant skills in this day and age where they don’t need to endure hardship? By the way, I don’t classify my upbringing as hardship – but it certainly was not typical of rural Australian kids at the time – this has spawned a blog post if you are interested.

  6. Aaron

    “Nowadays, while I’m still very limited in my purchases, I get whatever’s within my means. I’m patient with purchases, and have a better sense of prices.”

    It is amazing how many people in our society lack that type of financial common sense. Life, especially during the holiday season, should not be about flossing with the highest imaginary bank roll. Yet for so many that is all the holiday season is… a time to “buy stuff”.

    PS. Jose you might want to edit the link from your main website to this blog. Currently the link opens this blog in a new, smaller window. The active viewing area of your blog gets cropped badly by the new window. I suggest creating a standard link that opens your blog in the current, active window. Yes, that tip was your Christmas present.

    1. Post
      Author
      Jose

      Common sense is really uncommon, so truth be told. I’m still trying to get there. For instance, I apparently have to fix that link.

      Graham, thanks for the link. I’m still in the middle of the post, but in general, I agree that many of us go through the same thing to some degree, and it’s often that degree that differentiates us from one another. Nonethelesss, I’m glad we have found some common ground.

      Amber, welcome to the merging of realities. You’re right; doing the mindless garbage gets upgraded when we become adults. In moderation, it’s OK, but when there are more pertinent issues to deal with, like paying rent and other bills, it’s amusing to see these very people stuck in that mentality. We have no choice but stay humble with our finances.

      Alisha, thanks for dropping by and happy holidays to you too. It’s important that we raise our future (because I don’t have children right now) to appreciate the hard work that goes into presents and the like.

      Hugh, thanks for dropping by. I’ll have to e-mail you with a response, but Happy Holidays in general.

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