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Some people say they grew up in poverty without ever realizing that they were “poor.” Not my mom. She grew up in poverty. She knew it. She hated it. And she feared it all her life. Remembering my mother as I perceived her (which is, of course, only one limited version of her), I hold the vivid impression that the fear of running out of money fueled her ambitions, and festered in anxieties for herself and for her children, during her entire life.

“I never want to be a burden to you kids,” she said. Many, many times. Meanwhile, she practiced, and taught her children, the values of thrift and saving, self-control in spending, and the pursuit of high achievement in education and work. She spurred us all to become independent and self-sufficient adults.

Finally, she put aside a generous legacy, which she left to the four of us, although none of us had any particular need of it by the time she died. I’m sad that she didn’t have the time, the health, or even perhaps the inner capacity, to enjoy spending it herself.

Gratefully, and with her kindness and compassion clearly in mind, I’m using some of those resources to help alleviate aspects of “growing up poor” for a few children in the world.* Thanks, Mom. And by the way, there’s a dedicated seat with your name on it in the concert hall. May your spirit enjoy the music forever.

*See the link at the right to Friends of PEB.


  1. The women who grew up during The Great Depression spent their lives worried in the same way your mother did. Far apart geographically, yours and my mother were similar. Mother shopped her whole life on the cheap. When we were kids, she made our clothes out of the chicken feed sacks. When she was older, she shopped garage sales and spending $.25 for a new shirt was a matter of pride for her. She taught us to be frugal.

    While I love finding a bargain, I have overcome her teaching not to spend money. 🙂

    Mother’s Day is a time for remembrance. Thank you for yours.

  2. Lovely tribute to your mother, Barbara. My mom was also very frugal. She taught me to sew when was in 5th grade because I wanted clothes for my Barbie but we could not afford them. I learned wonderful lessons about thriftiness from her and Daddy. You should see me squeeze a toothpaste tube to the last drop!
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. This story was new to me. Blessings on all the mamas who pass on a better life to their children.

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