Thursday, June 07, 2007

Trenches / Chapter 1 / Are We Rich?

Are we rich?

My son returned from kindergarten the other day and asked me, "Mom, are we rich?"

Us, rich? Ha! Just a few hours earlier I’d written out a bundle of checks to cover our monthly bills. I felt anything but rich.

But over the next few days as I went about my usual activities, my son’s question remained at the back of my mind. Are we rich? Upon closer examination, I may need to change my answer.

Although the words "high fashion" will never be used to describe my wardrobe, I have a closet full of clothes. So does my husband and our kids. Are we rich?

We still sit on folding chairs around a hand-me-down kitchen table, but at mealtime there is always plenty of food on our plates. We never go to bed hungry. Are we rich?

Our car is ten years old, but it is reliable and paid for. When the tank gets low on gas, we simply fill it. Next summer we’ll buy a minivan. Are we rich?

I grumble to myself as I write out the check for the doctor’s co-payment. Fifteen dollars to find out that, no, her ears aren’t infected. She’s just teething. We have decent health insurance coverage, and ear infections are our most serious health concern. Are we rich?

Catered black-tie galas are beyond our social reach. Instead, we invite family and friends to informal sweatshirt and blue-jean affairs, asking them to bring casseroles or Jell-O salads. After everyone has eaten too much, the men swap hunting and fishing stories, the women exchange recipes, and the kids play tag in the backyard. Are we rich?

I drive by grand mansions and gated homes and wonder at the wealth. Ours, in contrast, is a modest home. Instead of living in an exclusive community, we’re part of an inclusive neighborhood – one where we refer to our neighbors by their first names. Are we rich?

I’ve pinched my share of pennies, and funds are always tight at the end of the month, but my husband has stable employment. We always know where our next paycheck is coming from. Are we rich?

Childbearing has forever changed my body. My stomach sags. My hips are wide. I can’t afford a personal trainer and even just getting out for a walk most days is difficult. My friend just told me about her brother and sister-in-law. They’ve been married for six years and seem to have everything. Everything except the one thing they most want – children. Are we rich?

Immeasurably.

3 comments:

Desmama said...

Mmm, good food for thought.

scienceteachermommy said...

Wow.

How did you answer your daughter?

Christie said...

At the time my daughter asked the question, "Are we rich?" I probably said something like, "We're not rich, but we have everything we need." (I've been guilty of talking too much about money in front of the kids, so I'm sure I wanted to make sure she wasn't worried about our finances.)

It took a day or two longer for me to really grasp how rich we really are.