It’s The Hard Knock Life

Jose Vilson Jose

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 …