Reflections On A Privileged Childhood

I’ve been thinking about class, race, and privilege a lot lately. The struggles of the character in Adam Haslett’s novel to gain admission to grad school and afford to pay for that have lead me to reflect upon my college years and then upon my childhood. I’ve realized recently just how very upper-middle class and indeed affluent my upbringing was and how in some ways I had an extraordinary childhood. I grew up in a two parent household, where both my parents were college graduates. M y father worked for an oil company as a geologist; my mother taught high school biology-by her choice; she didn’t have to work. I was raised by a nanny until I was old enough for school and, while my family didn’t have full-time help, my mother did have a  woman who came in twice a week to cook and clean house.  I had activities such as early childhood ballet and gymnastics ( in the 60s in Mississippi),  was in the band (when my parents saw I was serious, I got private lessons and a professional quality instrument) with trips to music camps, frequent visits to museums and symphonies, and winter vacations in warm climates. My battles with my mother, while important to me, now seem very first world: she wanted me to wear the designer labels she picked out,  while I wanted to steal my father’s shirts and wear them over jeans. I had the best medical care possible at the time (and I needed it, being born 3 months premature). I’m still a little fuzzy on all the details but for much of my early childhood I required daily visits from a nurse and regular consultations with various specialists. And college. That was something that I never questioned as being in my future. Of course, had I not gone to college, I would have broken family tradition bigtime….b/c not only had my parents graduated from college, but at least one of each of their parents had also. As it turns out, I have what a friend insists on calling the ” genius gene” lol and took to all things academic like a duck to water. Though my parents were fully willing, eager, and able to pay for college, my entire academic career was scholastically funded by the colleges I attended and my grad school even threw in a teaching fellowship and paid me to go to school. My parents did pay for a private apartment off-campus, though, which I did not have to share with a roommate. And my father offered me a car, which I declined, as I hated to drive. So I finished with a B.A. and a M.A. with no student debt. I am very grateful for that when I hear friends tell me that they’ve just paid off their loans. I had it very well in many respects growing up. It was not perfect, nothing ever is, but my parents gave me a hell of a lot. I wish I could tell them, “I appreciate it.”

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