"Are we poor?" says my son, says my daughter, says my heart.
And I think of the man on the street and the ladies who live across from us in the duplexes. I think of so many whose first chore of the day is to walk to a well or a river for water. And for water that isn't even clean. I think of them after taking a hot shower in the middle of winter. I think of them while sipping at my coffee. "No," I say. "We are not poor." And the car breaks again and the floor rots under us. The bath tub is useless and our water pipes hold together only stubbornly. This house is at odds with itself.
"Are we poor?" they say.
I say, "It depends what you mean by 'poor.' " It seems obvious to them what they mean: They cannot have the new pair of shoes they want, or that video game, or clothes that they do not have to share. It seems obvious when they go to bed, stacked like cordwood. Or when the weather constrains them to indoors, and their parents grow impatient at their play (it is so loud). It seems obvious. But still they ask.
"Look around you," I say. "You have a big family that loves you, that is and always will be together. Who, when I take just half of you out to the store, people ask whether you are all mine. You are rich where richness counts."
"Are we poor?" they say. And I think of my anger and my covetousness. I think of my despondency and impatience. I think of how I hoard what I do have, failing to give to those who do not. And I say, "I am poor."
Outside, overnight, it has snowed. It is a Carolina snow. And the ground, pizzelle-like, reminds me of holidays and weddings. We are not poor, children. We are not.