Life’s Significant Moments

It’s graduation season, working in education I’m seeing lots of photos on social media from friends and former colleagues posting graduation pictures. Without a doubt, graduation can be a significant life moment for many people and congratulations to all who are graduating this year. But for the moment I want to reflect on, I’m going to go back a bit further than graduation this year. In fact, I want to go all the way back to 1972 or 73.

My mother raised three kids as a single mom, I have tremendous respect for what that took. All three of us are college educated, decent people. Two of us working in education, one an entrepreneur and artist. She did all of this without a college education, or parents with money to support her. Normally as a kid, you really don’t know what’s happening, but I was both old enough and smart enough to understand more than most kids do. For this reason, my mother will never want for anything.

In the early seventies, after a bad divorce and a bit of a dead beat ex-husband being continually late on alimony and child support, my mother ended up unemployed. As you can imagine, this was utterly devastating for her and us. She did her best to conceal the financial realities at that time, this moment was the moment that the mask of childhood fell completely off for me.

We were having dinner, turkey Banquet Cooking Bags, poured over white bread. It’s funny how white bread back then was a luxury and now it’s wheat and multi-grain breads that hold that status. For those of you unfamiliar with cooking bags, these were single serving plastic bags with a couple pieces of processed meat and gravy that you could buy in the freezer section. You would take them out of the box and drop the plastic bags into a pot of boiling water. After they heated up, you plucked them out with tongs and usually burnt your fingers trying to cut them open to pour the contents over bread or rice.

I was excited that night to watch a TV show, Hogan’s Heroes if my memory serves me, and so I set up my tray table in the living room. I got my plate and when into the living room and being a little kid I did something stupid and flipped my plate to the ground. My dog of course pounced on his good fortune and scarfed up what was on the floor. I returned to the kitchen where my mom was eating and told her what happened and asked for more. Likely tired, stressed, and hungry my mom snapped at me, “there is no more.” Then she burst into angry and quickly much sadder tears. She then scraped half of hers onto my plate and I slunk away into the living room to eat my dinner. While this might not seem the most significant event, for me it was incredibly so.

I was at the right age to just be hitting the reality of the world face first. In that moment I came to face with a couple of realities. First, up to that point, because of the second thing I had thought, that our parents were omnipotent, I just assumed food was a guarantee, that only poor kids and staving kids in China didn’t have enough to eat. So now I was hit with the reality that my mother couldn’t solve every problem, she was just a regular person like I was and that I suddenly lived in a world where not having something to eat was a possibility. In that moment I had both become an adult mentally and a poor kid, a lot to handle all at the same time. I think it’s a bit rare that we remember the exact moment when we had to grow up, this was mine.

One of the bigger impacts this moment had on me is revealed by a joke that was often related about me when I was growing up, how I went from slims to huskies overnight. This is actually a reference to the sizing of Sears pants back in the 70’s. There were regular pants, slims for skinny kids and huskies for the fat kids. Up until the point of this happening I had been a stick thin kid, afterward, I put on a lot of weight. Basically, think of an 8 year-old with a beer belly. This all happened as a result of my awareness that food wasn’t a guarantee. I began hustling. Finding ways to make little bits of money here or there, folding pizza boxes for free slices, raking leaves, shoveling sidewalks in Winter. Hell, even gambling with my friends and yes, a little bit of theft thrown in for good measure. At times I even sweet talked my way at school into the lunch ladies giving up a chocolate milk or ice cream to me for free. And I was a kid, so it’s not like once I got money that I spent it on highly nutritious foods. I was buying donuts for breakfast, cookies, cupcakes, pizza, lots of soda, chocolate and candy. As such, I put on weight, it was an emotional reaction to the new realities of the life I was facing.

Crazy ripples click through our lives. Eating the type of foods I ate as a kid turned into the way I dealt with emotional turmoil, which also bled over to then using alcohol and drugs the same way. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to rewire my stress responses. Happily, drugs and alcohol no longer serve those purposes in my life, but food, well it still does. Those early coping mechanisms are the deepest and most ingrained and without a doubt have contributed to my diabetes as well.

We face so many of these type of moments as we go through life, at the time we are often wholly unaware of their seriousness or impact. We often don’t understand until we are unwinding our psyche through our personal work or with the help of a therapist years later. It’s why self-reflection, mindfulness and being present is so important in our lives. For us to be happy, to be content in our lives, it’s important that we pay attention to what’s happening each day, each moment in our lives, you never know when one of those moments will turn out to be incredibly significant and help us have happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

About Michael Kane

Michael Kane is a writer, photographer, educator, speaker, adventurer and a general sampler of life. His books on hiking and poetry are available in soft cover and Kindle on Amazon.
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