The Potato Famine Years


10347425_10154637944255608_4025207068298286260_nMy marriage story (actually, it’s ours, her and I’s) began rocky. It was 1990, I was enlisted in the Navy, a mere E-2, stationed 4 hours away from any family or friends, and when we got married, I brought her to live up there, away from everything she had ever known. Adding to this almost perfect setup of marital bliss, I had not had a chance to get to know the area that we were living in because I reported aboard my ship and was gone within a month for a six month deployment, only to return and head to my hometown to get married. So… yeah. It was pretty awesome.

In case that picture wasn’t quite dour enough, our car was a 1980 Chevy Citation that barely made the trip up to our new town and, well, it never made the trip back (more on that in a bit). Money was tight (read non-existent), and almost everything we owned was, in some shape or fashion, a hand-me-down. That included our silverware, dishes and all of our kitchen utensils (my mom had given us a green colander that I remember her using when I was a kid, I loved that thing). Bleak is a pretty apt word.

To top is off, the only place we could even reasonably afford was a single wide trailer (this was in Florida, so, read trailer as ‘Hurricane Magnet’). Our bed was super twin water-bed (it was just a bag full of water, no coils, no baffles, no.. whatever it is that makes them not wave around like the sea during a storm) that was mine growing up that I inherited from someone. It came complete with NO heater, so we had to use comforters to cover the mattress, and as anyone who has ever had the misfortune to sleep on a non-heated water-bed will tell you, if you made contact with the mattress without that wee bit of protection, you woke up chilled to the bone in the morning (which happened on more than one occasion).

Even our couch was given to us by a friend from church. Now mind you, this couch was awesome. It had dark blue floral print, was at least 10 years old, and the only way the cushions stayed supported was by stuffing magazines and newspapers under it. However, it would put you to sleep in five minutes flat. Oh, so comfortable.

Our dining room table was a fold out card table, partly because it was all we could afford, partly because it was all that would fit. Our Christmas tree that first year was what most would refer to as a Charlie Brown tree. It was fake, it was small, it was almost sad, but it was ours.

Ahhh, potatoes...
Ahhh, potatoes…

These days, while reminiscing about those early years, we refer to them as the ‘potato famine years’, because once we had a friend visit us (he was brave, very brave), and when he opened the fridge, the only thing in it were potatoes and cheese. Ok, in complete candor, I’m sure there was more, but the story has taken on an almost ‘fish tale’ aspect over the years and this is all that we seem to be able to recall from those days, but I’m also sure that whatever else was in there wasn’t much, because we couldn’t afford much. Mac&Cheese, ramen and makeshift cheap meals that included a lot of noodles I learned from my mom were about par for the course. Due to that, many nights I ate on the ship (it was free) so that our food budget would stretch through the 15 days between paychecks.

It didn't even come close to looking this nice.
It didn’t even come close to looking this nice.

During that time, my wife and I did try to go to our hometown a few times. Like I said, it was about four hours and on the first attempt, while less than an hour from leaving, our car, that sweet old 1980 Citation, decided that it just needed to overheat while we were doing about 65 (this was 1990 after all) on the interstate. It was late, it was Friday, and we were broke. There was no real helping in that situation, but somehow, we got off the interstate, and meandered our way back to our place. Even though the trip had only taken us a bit over an hour, it took us almost 4 to get back. The other times we tried, we attempted to rent a car, but being under 25, no credit to speak of, and broke, well… yeah.

I’m sure that I saw Paul beating up Peter while Peter tried to rob Paul again and again. So much so that it was amazing that the financial struggle my wife and I faced didn’t tear us down. It was rough, it sucked, and it was just hard. We made the best of it, though. I say that looking back, because it’s easier that way. Living through it…. not so much.

And here we are, over 24 years later. Somehow we made it. We even managed to carve out a bit of financial peace out of all of those trials of our first few years of marriage. Although, I’m ok with never having to go back to those times again, I have come to appreciate those years for what they were, the bedrock of learning to have to depend on each other instead of stuff. Who would have ever thought I could appreciate a time when I couldn’t even buy a soda because I didn’t have fifty cents to spare. Go figure.

Granted, I don’t think anyone really appreciates the trials as they are going through them, but… that’s just my opinion.

(For more “The Story of Us“, visit the blog entry page that lists all the blogs (click the link in the name back there <—-)

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