Thinking of holidays past in the few calm moments I glean during this season, I am impressed by how little social status can really mean—if you have economic stability. Things don’t make us happy, but resources (not just financial) are beyond priceless.

This time of year, I think of my working class home growing up. Paul Fussell writes that there is one class that does not really strive to be anything but who they are—the working class. Bridges participants will wander up to me during a break and ask where the working class fits into this work. I say, “I grew up there.” Some of the hidden rules I learned growing up came from poverty because my parents grew up in poverty, but some of the hidden rules were from middle class. There was economic stability, and many of the other resources were in place. The working class world that I grew up in has taken a hit in past years due to de-industrialization and globalization. The labor jobs my family worked are now overseas. The factories have relocated, and the career ladder now requires more than plain hard work. Each rung of the ladder requires an additional education level.

I remember the brick ranch house in a multi-ethnic neighborhood on the industrial side of town. It snowed a lot in Canton, Ohio when I was growing up. My dad worked on Saturdays for a tree farm to make some extra money during the holidays. He would bring a beautiful tree home—a perk of this seasonal job. My mother in her frilly Christmas apron would be cooking up some traditional Italian food—we drowned in traditional Italian foods—and she would pause to come out onto the front stoop with her saucy wooden spoon. “Sub,” my mother called my father by his nickname, “that’s a good tree. Now don’t hack it up trying to make it even, like you do every year.”  

“What!” Dad retorted. For Dad, the word what was never a question. It was the definitive end of the story. He was the sweetest man, but apparently not a man who could trim a Christmas tree! Every year he truly would massacre the thing. He would drag it into the house and set it up in the corner of what I now see as a small living room. The formerly full and symmetrical tree looked like it lost a good fight with the wrong side of the hedge clippers. You could literally see through the tree in most places, like Swiss cheese. My mother would sigh and go back to the kitchen.  For some reason, I laugh until I cry remembering those poor trees.

I want a holiday like that for every child in America. I can’t imagine a better time, even if there had been more money. There was love and patience. (OK, most of the time there was patience!) What will we do to be sure that every child in America has something of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or some other celebration to cherish?


Tiny moments of relationships—that’s what I remember about the holidays. And I, like many others, find I can’t recall most of the presents.

-Terie Dreussi-Smith

About the consultant:

Terie Dreussi-Smith, M.A.Ed.has served as Supervisor of Prevention Services at a community alcohol/other drug treatment and prevention organization for over nine years, and was instrumental in the organization’s redesign of programs and services for prevention and early intervention clients from generational poverty. She also co-authored Bridges Out of Poverty; Strategies for Professionals and Communities. She is a former public school teacher with years of experience. Terie served as adjunct faculty for several colleges focused on empowering adult students transitioning out poverty. In her recent consultant work as a grant writer and social program manager for youth-based service agencies, community coalitions and schools, Terie assisted communities to embed Bridges Out of Poverty concepts in redesigning policies and services for families and youth in generational poverty. .