When we moved to New Jersey for my first job after the military, we could not believe the cost of living. We soon discovered that the further south you moved in this state, the lower the cost of living. Still high, but lower.
We had a lot of ‘junk’ that we accrued over the years before Becca and I met, so in addition to a home, we needed to get a storage unit to keep it all. It was this junk that would be our savior during the year we spent in NJ.
We found a nice little home in Bricktown, NJ. I believe the address was 46 Capri (street, avenue, lane…I don’t remember). The school my two older children attended was called Osbourneville Elementary. I never learned why the school appeared to be named after a town other then the one it was located in.
Anyway, this home we move into was unique in the fat that it had no lawn. I may have seen this in my past, but I never actually experienced a lawn made of stones and pebbles. This made it hard to play with the kids in the yard because of the inherent pain it would cause.
It was a three bedroom house where the boys shared one bedroom, the girls in another and we had the last one. It got kind of cramped when my sisters Cathy and Donna came to visit with Cathy’s young son, Joey (RIP). The bills were outrageous. Electric, gas and water/trash were almost have as much as the rent which was $750.
It was 1989 and my new job with the Department of Defense was only that of a GS-9 (meaning very little income). Because of this, Becca tried her best to work part time, but it was hard because her availability was very limited with 4 young children under the age of 9.
This is where the ‘junk’ came in. We had noticed in Bricktown that there was a farmers market (aka a flea market) not far from the house. So every weekend Becca would pile a bunch of the stuff (much of it was army uniforms and equipment that we both accrued during our years in the Army – another blog for several other times) and take it to the flea market and sell it to the locals in south NJ. I would stay with the three younger children at home while Chuck would go with Becca and help her out.
The income from these trips to the flea market were what made it possible to survive in New Jersey. I had a one hour commute each way to where I worked at Ft. Monmouth. The distance wasn’t the problem…it was the traffic which was horrendous. This required gas and tolls and a lot of hand gestures and bouts of road rage, but I dealt with it.
Back to the flea market and the whole point for this blog. As Becca would stand at the table and make sales happen, Chuck (being a young curious boy) would wander around and explore. During her fourth or fifth visit to the flea market, Chuck wandered out behind the market and found a wooden bat laying in the grass. He picked it up and started swinging it and getting board with that, he looked around for something to hit.
He noticed what appeared to be a decrepit and abandoned tractor in the field nearby. He went to the tractor and took a swing. No damage. He must have considered this a challenge because he then proceeded to wail on this tractor…swing, ting….swing, ting…until this old farmer came out and grabbed the bat in one hand and one of Chuck’s arms with the other.
Chuck showed him where to find Becca and this farmer explained what he caught Chuck doing (making it sound a lot worse then it was) and Becca offered to pay for any damage (which was very minimal). The old boy just mumbled something about controlling the boy and went back to whatever he was doing …maybe slopping hogs??
Well, Becca packed up he table and came home early. Of course I wondered WTH? Then she went on to explain everything I mentioned above. Chuck was cowering behind Becca as she explained the story and I was getting madder with every word. Chuck and I had a discussion about the cost of his actions and the difficulty this could cause with our basic survival. Chuck was genuinely embarrassed and regretful for the entire situation.
Chuck has always been a great boy. Sure he had incidents like this, but overall he has made me a very proud father. I share this story because it was a memory I awoke with this morning. Since Chuck now has children of his own, I hope one day he will be able to share this with his children, not to show that he was a trouble maker, but to show that every child has days of adventure that would be looked upon as being troublesome.
I love my kids.