Saturday, March 01, 2008


I had an odd situation crop up this last week. A friend, who is still certainly a friend though our orbits are now quite far away from each other, stopped by the house. She said "I have some ideas for you. First we need to get you into a bigger house..." I stopped her there. I said "I can't buy a new or different house. I'm not working right now. Until my son is eligible for daycare (meaning out of diapers) I can't work full time. Period" Not working has been a big deal for me. I'm not the best stay-at-home mom and I know that. Our life, as a family, has had some real uncertainties the last couple of years. We are up against a big uncertainty right now, finalizing the sale of our old business. All of that seems to be unknown where we are living now. I don't broadcast a sense of doom but I also don't understand how I give off a sense of trust fund-driven wealth. I do my best to portray a calm, but I also live in a house that is less than 800 square feet and drive an old car with nearly 160,000 miles on it, neither of which I can replace right now. I had another friend - one who has her own business and a large house for one person - say that the church I attend is the one that "rich people like you" attend. What? I lined her out but still said thanks for thinking I was just dripping in wealth. It must be the clothes I bought last year on the Target clearance rack that gives off that vibe of Carnegie cash running through my blue veins.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I remember hearing similar assumptions when I was a kid. A few times I was referred to as a "rich kid" and was always puzzled by the accusation. My parents were school teachers. Yes, we drove a Cadillac, but we also had a Gremlin. We had to sell my dad's beloved Cadillac off shortly after his death because he died in July and my parents didn't get paid in the summer and the $2100 it garnered all went to the ambulance bill when he had a massive heart attack one night. Our house was comfortable but it's the house I was brought home to as newborn. My mom still lives there. Yes, I've seen Paris but it was with a back pack on and a flat pillow awaiting me at the next youth hostel.

Often my daughter asks me who lives in the big houses that are being built near us. I'll tell her, "Mr. and Mrs. Soandso". She'll then ask how many kids live in that big house. I have to answer truthfully and say "none." She'll then ask when we are going to "trade houses" and I have to say, again truthfully, "not anytime soon". Even if I had the means, I wouldn't want to follow that path. I try, on a daily basis, to simplify my life; to have less stuff, to have less worry, to consume less. As much as anything, I don't want the big ol' house because I couldn't deal with the perception issues; I want to live simply and I can't stop thinking that with more stuff comes more worries.

Point? Non-existent, really. Perception is a bigger thing for me than I wanted it to be, I guess. I want to be perceived as someone without pretension, without clutter, without inaccuracies, without complications... but not without complexity. Do I want too much or not enough?

If nothing else... no huge house, big car, or bulging mutual fund... I do have some appreciation for the rarities. I found one today in the first strawberries of the season, on sale, in the grocery store. I honestly do think they taste better when they are two boxes for five dollars...

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