Material Girls

A few days ago, my favorite news show guy quoted some famous, fabulously wealthy person of middle-class background (I wish I knew who) as saying,

“The first rich kids I ever met were my own.”

That line has stuck in my head.– I’’ve been wondering ever since if that statement is true of me too. Today my fourteen year-old came home with her new Vespa. I believe the answer is yes.

I’’ve tried to raise my girls with the same ethics and values that I grew up with, – but I am not sure it is even possible to raise non-materialistic kids anymore. They’’ve got cell phones and Ipods, an Ipad and a laptop and a Kindle; they’’ve got bikes and scooters and ski equipment and a trampoline and a swimming pool. They could have a really neat dollhouse and teepee. They have a keyboard and a grand piano and two guitars. They’’ve got their own rooms with overflowing closets. They wear Converse shoes.

I wanted Converse shoes so badly in Grade School. All the girls had them and they wrote the initials of the boy they liked on rubber toe part. My mom wasn’’t about to throw away good money for a brand name, so I had ugly Gilligan sneakers and had to write the initials on the rubber along the side at the bottom. It just wasn’’t the same. At first I couldn’’t decide which initials to write. I finally decided on “M.K.” Less than a week later, I scratched away the “K” and made it a “C”. Two days after that “M.C.” had to go, so I scribbled over them till they couldn’’t be seen and then wrote “P.L.” next to the big blotch. That blotch on the side of my sneakers instead of on the toe was proof that my life sucked. I was brown-paper-lunch-bag instead of cool-metal-lunchbox-with-matching-thermos girl. My clothes had all been worn by someone else before. No Avon lady ever came to our house. There were no potato chips in the kitchen cupboards and no Coke in the fridge. The only thing we had in our house was books. Books, books, and more books. Who needed a complete 20-volume encyclopedia, or the entire set of Time/Life geography books, or the whole “Journey Through Bookland” series? We also had a rec room full of games in the basement but my four brothers and sisters and I usually just created our own games to play. And then there was a neighborhood full of kids always ready for some Kick the Can or Statue-maker. We also had the coolest backyard on the block –with secret hiding places and rare wild flowers. Every year I waited for the white Trilliums to bloom and then visited them daily . . .

I figured out pretty quickly that journeying through bookland, or kicking the can or visiting the Trilliums would not have been any better with Converse shoes on. By the time the next fashion trend came along -– I think it was Alligator shirts -– I couldn’’t have cared less.

So I am not sure how I feel about the new Vespa standing in the carport. It helps a little that my daughter bought it herself with her song contest winnings and that she got 95% on her moped license test. That she has good study habits and helps around the house, doing chores and walking the dogs. That when she is bored, she goes to the piano to work on her songs or start composing a new one. And that I trust her never to just take off on it without telling me first where she’’s going and when she’’ll be back.


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