Government Cheese

I remember the creamy goodness its orangish-yellowness yielded. The box rather ordinary, but the soft insides wrapped in silver is where the magic lay. To get said treat, my Grandmother and I would stand in the line that formed monthly behind the distribution truck, for what surely was a long time. The line snaked around the Projects, or the politically correct name – Government Subsidized Housing, several times. For me, time was non-existent, as it melted away in the company of neighbors and friends. The kids played games and danced around the way impatient children do, while the grown-ups gossiped and traded stories. Once our turn, this hefty block of fortified nutrition would be put in my eager hands. I would carry it with folded arms, cradling it to my chest.

Back then, small and scrawny – a gangly redheaded girl – I marched home with my prize. I didn’t know what the Government Food Surplus Program did for the American dairy farmer or the country. I didn’t know a lot. I just knew it filled empty bellies like mine. Years later – I know. Just like I know now that we were poor. This cheese had become a staple in our household, and after today, there would be many meals to come.

My Grandmother was a sort-of miracle worker when it came to food. She could make something out of nothing, and that’s what we had a lot of – nothing. On the menu tonight, grilled cheese. Maybe tomorrow there’d be Grandma’s macaroni and cheese. Maybe there’d even be a make-shift pizza. Maybe one day, just maybe, we wouldn’t return to the serpentine line, but as a young girl, I didn’t burden myself with such thoughts. For now, I was just content to pull up a kitchen chair and wait for dinner.


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