I suspect that around this time a lot of folks are doing their annual resolutions about diets following the feasts of November and December. These people are the blessed ones because so many all over the world have no food at all. I’ve written about how our family sometimes wondered where the next meal was coming from, but we were the lucky ones because the next meal always came. We even had a huge stand-up freezer so large that it didn’t fit into the kitchen. One would think that a family with meager means would not have much use for a food freezer. That was true for us. We did not have much use for a food freezer.
Why did we have a freezer for food? What some people might not know is that poor people who don’t have a lot of money and don’t have a lot of options where they can shop rely on door-to-door salespeople for just about everything they buy. In my experience, if the salesman (always a man) gained the trust and favor of some members or just one member of a family, he could sell anything. He would promise that a given item would be easy to afford by paying only a few dollars over time.
One such salesman was Mr. Gardner. Though my mother and grandmother claimed that they didn’t like him, they kept buying whatever he was selling. I used to say that I hated him because I could see how he was suckering them and a lot of other families into buying second- and third-rate products. He would encourage people to get this junk on credit only to begin hounding them to pay at times when they had no money.
I would beg my grandmother and mother to just cuss Mr. Gardner out the next time he knocked on the door, and though they would get frustrated with him, they would go ahead and buy something else from this same man who sold them the draperies that had fiberglass in them. If you walked close enough to the draperies, they would reach out and shock you. After they were washed in the sometimes-working old-fashioned wringer washing machine that I was so glad that we had after years of washing clothes in the bathtub on a scrub-board, the fiberglass was in our clothes forever. For that alone, I wanted to do Mr. Gardner bodily harm.
Mr. Gardner sold everything from bedspreads to freezers filled with meat. He convinced my mother to buy a huge stand-up freezer full of meat. The freezer had to be placed in the hallway because of its size.
The meat was not the kind of meat we were used to seeing or eating, so it was only eaten by the desperate when there was absolutely nothing else to eat. I used to imagine that the strange meat was body parts, so I never ate it even if there was nothing else to eat. When I would complain about being hungry or say that there was nothing to eat, my mother would say, “Don’t tell me there is nothing to eat when there is a freezer full of meat right there in the hallway!”