My good buddy over at BadQuaker had a great podcast (http://badquaker.com/archives/1347) a couple days ago that got me thinking. My mother’s parents, my Granddaddy and Meme, all the years I was growing up had a maid. Her name was Edith, an older black lady, who was very kind to my brother and me.
My Granddaddy worked for the county health department as a restaurant inspector and septic tank inspector and, on the side, he would wire houses for electricity, probably 2 or 3 a year. And, on that solidly middle class salary, he was able to have “help” come in 2-3 times a week to do the chores and cooking my Meme didn’t want to do. I fondly remember following her around the house, dust rag in hand, polishing the furniture with the Lemon Pledge she would spray on for us.
I am a Major in the Army. Based on Jack Spirko’s definitions (http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/the-real-meaning-of-downward-class-migration ) I am solidly upper middle class, with an income edging towards 6 figures a year, well over if you include what I would have to pay for Tricare and life insurance at market prices. And I cannot afford a maid. Well, I guess I could if that was a priority, but even though we have virtually NO debt I would hesitate to hire a full time maid, not least because it would slow down our saving for a land purchase.
How is it that with a college degree and a mid/upper level management job and no debt I cannot afford to live at the quality of life my Granddaddy was able to provide on a working man’s salary? The money I earn is simply worth less.
There is another, human, cost to the loss of monetary value. Long after Edith retired from housekeeping and her daughter took her job with my grandparents my Granddaddy would take my brother and me over to Edith’s low-income, ghetto-ish house in East Gadsden and work on her porch or clean her gutters or whatever. We often took her and her husband coons we had caught, which they considered (and I consider!) a delicacy fried up with collard greens and yams and cornbread. When my Meme’s mother got bad enough with Alzheimer’s to need constant care, we relied on Edith’s recommendation of one of her nieces to be a weekday caregiver, then one of the family would stay with Grandmother Moore on the weekend. This relationship acted as a form of social security, my grandparents did not consider themselves social peers with Edith and her family, but they felt a sense of obligation to take care of them as Christian family and through long association. Edith and her family benefited greatly from the money the jobs my Granddaddy’s money provided them.
I don’t know that I could afford to do today, on my salary, what my Granddaddy did on his. Makes you think…