LAKE MACBRIDE— There was a time when our life on the Iowa prairie resembled what now is referred to as the middle class. My mother worked at home and at the school cafeteria, and my father had a shift job at a meat packing plant, Monday through Friday. We kids went to school and church, played in the neighborhood, and from time to time, our maternal grandmother came over for Sunday dinner. We had little money, and didn’t need much. After Dad’s death I found one of his pay stubs in his basement workshop indicating $89 per week.
Dad was involved with our family, the union, politics and getting ahead. After work on Fridays he would head to Pete’s Midwest Tavern to socialize, and blow off some steam. On Saturday mornings he slept as late as he ever did, his wedding band and watch on the bedside table until he rose. As he struggled to get ahead, he took up golf as a means of socialization and networking, although he didn’t call it that. Eventually, Saturday morning sleep-ins were replaced with an early tee-time. It turned out he was good at playing golf, not quite a scratch golfer.
It’s been a lot of years since Dad passed on— it is difficult to tell, beyond the gene pool, whether I am like him or not. He would likely disapprove of my current temp job as a shift worker, as he had better things in mind for me. He never said exactly what, but provided career advice, “don’t become a grease monkey— keep your hands clean.”
After a week of warehouse work, my workmates and I do thank God when Friday arrives. It is a bit lame that I don’t know if bars are open after midnight. Always, I have headed home, although someday my younger cohorts may invite me out after work. I would go if they did.
My hands swell from the manual labor I perform. I take off my wedding band and place it on the dresser near where the watch I haven’t worn since the 1990s rests, its battery dead. I sleep in on Saturday morning, and it’s okay to break from society and its conventions.
The way the phrase “middle class” is used today seems spurious. A marker for a political agenda, rather than a condition or status in society. Demographically, the term is meaningless because of the vast range of economic status of the group falling between the haves and the have nots— the have somethings.
I feel working class when sleeping in on Saturdays, tired from the preceding week of manual labor. Whatever one calls it, luxuriating in being who we are is important to maintaining our sanity in a turbulent world. Even if it only lasts for the brief time between sleeping and waking on Saturday mornings.