My Father’s Box

I was honoured when Holistic Wayfarer asked me to guest post on A Holistic Journey. I was pleased to accept and write about the impact that money and class had on my upbringing and the way I live now. You’ll find a collection of thought-provoking, passionate and powerful writing on the blog, so please visit and take some time to explore. Thank you Holistic Wayfarer for inviting me.

A Holistic Journey

When my father died, I kept the wooden box in which he had stored his tools. Dad worked as a plasterer, so the box is scarred and coated in plaster dust.  But this box reminds me of all that I learned from him about earning a living.  From Dad, I learned that loyalty and pride in your work are more important than how much you earn.

I was raised in North East England. For the first decade of my life, we lived in a small flat with an outside toilet.  We bathed in a tin tub in front of the fire.  Dad could have earned more working for another employer, but he was loyal to the small family firm he’d apprenticed to.  He took pride in his work and often carried out jobs for family and friends for nothing more than a couple of packs of cigarettes.

We didn’t have…

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55 thoughts on “My Father’s Box

  1. Nice post. I get what you’re saying. I have more now than I ever did as a child or college student. Which is probably why I shun fancy restaurants and still shop at discount stores. As you point out, our background stays with us, and as in this case, that’s not always such a bad thing.

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  2. Hi Andrea, I read this post on the Holistic Wanderer, and I really enjoyed it. Our upbringing, our parent’s attitudes to money all have such an impact on our adult attitudes to money. We didn’t have much money, but my mother always felt wealthy and encouraged us to appreciate the ways in which we were wealthy in other ways – the land we lived on, our health, our family and friends. It has done me well, I think.

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  3. What a great story. It’s funny…. my father was raised on Welfare and they shopped at the “Sally Ann” (Salvation Army). He started working when he was barely 12 and he vowed that when he was older, he would PAY for stuff and not get it for free!

    Well, he went into real estate, made big bucks and spent it all with nary a regret. He lived large and he flashed yet, when he got older and his situation changed he went from “guess how much this costs” to “guess how little this costs”! Funny…

    Through it all, we were not spoiled, we all got summer jobs from the ge of 16 and we all learned to pay our own way. It could have turned out totally differently!

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  4. This was wonderful, Andrea. I’m so glad you chose to share.
    I’d like to think i’ve “overcome my upbringing”. Let’s face it, not all people are good people and most of them still become parents. However, i did retain some outlooks and values that i never even considered discarding. Call it the pride of the working class. I let go of the things from which i escaped, so i can see the bits of good that were here and there. With that good in mind, i really felt like i was reading about myself as i soaked up your post. The day i realized i was making close to double what my father made was… unsettling. Huge hugs.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this, Andrea. I think that “influence” or “impact ” are the key words. The problems start when we let both excess and lack of money influence us. Until then we just live with what we have. 🙂

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  6. As much as we all wish, especially when we are teenagers, to be anything but our parents, our childhoods are never far from us. Our upbringing isn’t the only component of who we are but a huge part, I agree with you, Andrea. I was moved by your post because my own father died fairly recently and I also kept a symbolic token from his life. Like your father mine was a simple, hardworking, family man. I have sometimes wished for a more extraordinary dad but I have also been deeply marked by his humble beliefs, which as a grown-up woman I value now more than anything of value. You’ve expressed in few words a lot of important thoughts related to fatherhood, filiation, social class, and the meaning of belonging. I’ve heard more than once than even famous people (in all fields) raised in poverty never truly feel like fitting in their new lifestyle. I’d want to believe that we can take the best our of our upbringing and add our own life experiences to become someone unique. This post was one of your best, both in terms of content and writing. Thank you for sharing such personal facts of your life with your readers.

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  7. What a great family story. Thank you for sharing it. Pride in your work and not how much you earn- what a concept today!! You were blessed to have such a wise father!!
    I grew up in a middle class family with middle class values!! Yes, we had much we took for granted. How boring!! lol. However my father was an artist in his soul and though he had put it aside to work for a corporation he was able to realize it more fully later on in life before it was too late.

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  8. Hey Miss Andrea. So interesting to learn about your upbringing. When I was growing up, “class” wasn’t really a big deal. When we were kids, no one really paid attention to who had money and who did not. As long as we had our family, we didn’t feel we lacked anything. Getting a college education didn’t make that person better than someone without one either. I used to feel this was sort of the American way, but, over the years, I’ve noticed “class” becoming more and more important here, too. I feel like it’s very divisive. To me, we’re all humans who are more alike then we realize, no matter where we come from, or how much money we make. We are all flesh and blood, heart and soul, longing to belong and feel loved.
    Thank you for sharing a piece of yourself.

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    • Thanks Lori. I always thought America was more of a classless society, though I’ve learned that’s not always the case. I don’t think we really thought about money, but there was always that sense of those who weren’t like us. It’s not something I really think about now except possibly in terms of political issues – most of the people who run our country are from very privileged backgrounds but the decisions they make impact on the poorest people. But I think that’s probably the case the world over.

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  9. Lovely post. A complex topic. My parents were definitely influenced by their childhood during the Depression years, and also by their young adult years during WW2, with rationing etc. Their thrift and careful ways were passed on to us, the children, which means I am constantly at war with myself over whether I save the wrapping paper, or piece of string, just in case……or whether I should be brave and bold and place them in the recycling bin.

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  10. I love this post, and also learning a little bit about your upbringing. I lived in a huge house (it used to be part of the Underground Railroad system during the Civil War), but because the town we lived in was small and remote, and my parents didn’t usually have extra cash to spend on “things”, I wasn’t raised with extravagances. To this day, I shun materialism and live fairly simply and minimally. I recycle anything I can and take great pleasure out of the privilege of reading a book by a fireplace.

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  11. The house I lived in for the first 12 years of my life was across the street from a factory. My parents worked hard and didn’t have much, but I never felt like we were poor. They worked their way into a middle class neighborhood, and by the time I was in high school, I had friends whose parents were doctors and university professors.

    My husband and I both have advanced degrees and live comfortably. But neither of us has forgotten our simpler roots. And we never consider ourselves “better” than anyone else. We’re far more likely to consider ourselves lucky—especially lucky that we understand the value and importance of honest work and that we haven’t forgotten where we came from.

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  12. Hi Andrea, I don’t know how I managed to miss this latest post of yours, but I did. Have just caught up. Lovely portrait of your Dad and the lasting values a parent can instil. We can’t change our roots and I think in a way, it’s disloyal to try and disregard them. I still use the soap up to its last slither, rinse out marmite and tomato tins with boiling water to add the last bit to a casserole and tear up old t shirts for dusters etc. my husband thinks I’m mad. 😄
    I must let you know – I managed to get a copy of Popshot and read your story. I’m not just saying this, I thought it was excellent and not what I was expecting at all. You are such a diverse writer, Andrea, you have a great style and I realised with this story that your style extends beyond what we have become familiar with on your blog. Go girl, get that book published!

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    • Thanks Jenny, I don’t think I’m quite as much of a waste not want not as you 🙂 But I do have a tendency to keep things just in case and use one thing at a time until it’s finished before I open something new! Thanks so much for your support in buying the magazine and I’m thrilled you liked the story. Yes, it’s probably not what people would expect from reading my blog, but it was one of those times when I felt like I had an interesting idea and ran with it!

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