We are going back in time! Remember Nellie Olsen? Little House on the Prarie? I loved the show, the books, Laura and Mary… Charles and Caroline were the best parents! But I did not like Nellie Olsen. Not one bit. But I got called Nellie Olsen a lot!
I grew up in a farming community and my parents owned the “general store” so to speak. We carried groceries, some clothing, cards, even some fancy plates, and vases. We stocked a little bit of everything. Severson’s Grocery and Variety Store.
In the next town over, a friend of ours owned a hardware store and carried all kinds of sporting goods. He would call my mother whenever he was closing out his winter coats. You see, she had 6 kids to keep clothed. We wore Polaris and Articat, sometimes Honda or Yamaha… and whatever else fit us, it just happened these were name brand items. We certainly could never have afforded them.
One day my mom came in with a purple and black, hooded, fake fur Articat winter coat. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen! I wore it to school the very next day … but I would not wear it for the next week, opting for a much lighter coat that was not near warm enough for our midwest winters. My mom must have mentioned this to my Dad. He sat me down and asked why wasn’t I wearing my new winter coat? I told him they teased me at school and called me Nellie Olsen and worst of all… they said I was RICH! In a small town, being rich is like being a poser, you do not want that title.
My dad laughed and laughed, as I sobbed. He pulled me into his lap and stopped me from crying. He explained everyone in town thought we were rich and he let them! He said people think I got a lot of money I let them think what they want. Really, who knows how rich any man really is? Then with that twinkle in his eye that only my dad has when he is being ‘sly’ he said, the next time someone says you are rich you tell them, “well I must be!” And then you go on and play with you friends.
I did what my dad told me to do the very next day at recess. The teasing immediately stopped and I was never called Nellie Olsen nor rich ever again. It worked like magic!
I finally understand his message after all these years; people don’t know what they have no knowledge of. People assume and you know what that makes them. I grew up very grounded. And now as an adult, I know my story, my hardships, my battles, my truths, but more importantly, my worth – and I’m not talking money.
Love you Dad, my hero!
By the way, Nellie Olsen grew up to be a very nice lady, and I hope I have too.