I was born and grew up in a town nicknamed Stink-a-dena on the Houston Ship Channel. In December, the blue northers pushed the scent of the paper mill onto our street.
I still connect that smell with Christmas.
The plants lining the ship channel paid tons of property taxes, so we had great schools. That's one reason our parents moved there. The other was money.
Good wages. Good benefits. Good schools. What more could you want?
I'm not complaining. I'm really not. I'm grateful, although it's a conflicted feeling inside of me. I lived in a great neighborhood, went to exceptional schools, have priceless memories, and treasured lifelong friends.
I eventually went to work at one of the new chemical plants myself, which, along with his GI Bill, provided Tom the means to get his degree.
But I quit as soon as I could and we found a way to move from the area. I wasn't homesick a day, except for the sight of my parents and siblings and many friends we had there.
The best thing, besides the change in scenery? My kids' asthma faded away like a wisp of steam from a boiler stack.
"That's the smell of money." It's a common phrase in my hometown, and it's true. The trade-off wasn't worth it to us, even right now when we're so broke.
But I would never criticize my friends and family who still work in those chemical plants, or others around the world, because the truth is, all of us depend on the products they're producing, and we should be grateful to them.
My niece shared a song on my Facebook wall today about chemical workers. It's what triggered this post - she said it reminded her of me. In some odd way, it makes me proud. Thanks, Carol.
Without further ado, here's The Chemical Worker's Song...