This I Believe

Holly - La Quinta, California
Entered on January 8, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: addiction, family

I believe that the value of a dollar can make or break a person. Growing up with affluence or poverty can skew a child’s life, but I believe that behind the materialistic things or lack thereof, you can never tell if parents are doing the best for their children. I should know the details of my life; I should know why we moved, where my parents went, and why my childhood was what it was. I was unaware of a majority of the aforementioned before this year—my senior year of high school.

I was born in Huntington Beach, and I never understood why we relocated from my beloved hometown. I recently found out that the bank had foreclosed our house. Later, we moved to the more opulent Indian Wells. We lived in a condominium, but my parents made it seem like we were wealthy, despite my mother’s mediocre paychecks as Taco Bell’s general manager and my father’s checks from Social Security. Later, the bank foreclosed our condo and we moved into a new, custom house in the same country club.

For as long as I can recall, my parents were obsessed with casinos and the perception of wealth. My childhood never consisted of interesting vacations; I distinctly remember about four trips a year to Las Vegas. I stayed alone in rooms of the best, newest hotels—first The Mirage and Monte Carlo, then the Bellagio and Mandalay Bay—where my parents gained several advantages because of their gambling statuses. Even in this desert, they gambled every day—rain, shine, morning, night—and left me alone, leading to my early and ongoing depression. I always felt like an abandoned child and I hid the effects of their addiction from everyone; what they did and how I couldn’t do anything about it was embarrassing.

When I was in middle school, my dad told me that he was going to put $50 a month in a savings account to pay for college. This poor attempt to pay for a $50,000 education never happened. My parents never thought I would eventually grow up; I was going to need a car and money for college. I never knew the depths of excessive wealth or of unbearable destitution, because I was neither spoiled nor materialistically neglected. I got my own job to maintain the lifestyle I require and I worked hard in school because my parents never knew how to be parents.

I was repetitively told that “money isn’t everything,” but this came from people who had solid lives. My parents spent more time in the poker room than playing with me or helping me, which stripped me of a real childhood. I would not be as independent as I am if my parents had chosen to be with me over the casino, and my independence is like their dollar, except I chose to use it wisely. My life has always been a gamble, and I’ve attempted to play the cards I was dealt.