When I was young I had many dreams. Looking back I realize they were all rather simple. I wanted to find someone to marry. I hoped to have children. I thought that buying my own car would be wonderful and I wanted to park it in front of my own house. I thought it would be nice to do a bit of traveling and to have books and music to entertain me. I seemed to always be saving for something like a semester of college tuition, a dress that I saw in a store window or my high school class ring. My imagination was not developed enough to consider really big ideas. Mostly I just wanted to be happy, survive and quietly live what I thought was a normal life.
I got lucky in finding the love of my life when I was only eighteen years old. Looking back I realize that we were a couple of silly kids who had no real plans for navigating the future. We just went wherever the winds took us and muddled our way through becoming adults. I suppose we were fortunate that things turned out as well as they did because we were grossly unprepared for the real life issues that very quickly came our way and upended our savings and our goals. When I was twenty and my husband was twenty one we grew up exponentially when my mother had her first mental breakdown. We no longer had the luxury of being silly and immature as we took on the responsibility of her care. A year later we were blessed with our first child and we understood that she would become our new priority as well.
We might have fallen apart under the pressure of redefining our lives to accommodate my mother and our daughter into our lives. We were so young, inexperienced and wanting in wisdom. Somehow we learned on the fly and none of the multitude of mistakes that we made were lethal. While we fought battles to keep my mother well and to care for a child who spent most of her early years being sick, we saw many of our peers enduring horrors on the battlefields of Vietnam. We felt blessed that our trials were far less consequential that what they had to experience.
Eventually we added another little girl to our family. Fortunately she was rarely sick and had an easy going personality that was never demanding. We began our lifelong roller coaster ride in earnest, always saving for something special and usually spending it on an emergency. Up and down we went and even through all of the serious illnesses and unexpected issues that arose as we fumbled through our twenties we were exceedingly happy. It did not seem to matter that we were continually scaling back our spending and our dreams just to pay for all the rainy day situations that seemed to pound at us. What did not break us really did make us stronger and ever closer.
I don’t have formal portraits of my children growing up. Most of the furniture that was in my home was some kind of hand me down. Going out to eat meant buying burgers or visiting the local Mexican food restaurant. The girl’s birthday parties were simple sleepovers or gatherings in the backyard. Our vacations all centered on camping in our big canvas tent. We purchased an older wooden home that had only slightly more than a thousand square feet. What it did have was a huge yard shaded by big trees where our children played with all of the other neighborhood kids. It was glorious! We lived in a wonderful little bubble albeit constantly worried about whether our car might need a repair or the air conditioners in the windows might finally wear out. Miraculously we always got by.
Over time and with persistence we became more comfortable monetarily. We paid for our children to go to college. We bought a trailer instead of a tent for our vacations. We moved to a bigger house. We flew to far away destinations. We saved for our retirement. We planned ahead for repairs on our home and our car. We purchased new furniture and gave away some of our hand me downs. We looked back our our lives and smiled because we knew that even with all of the challenges it had been wonderful.
Now I want very little. I am content and my wishes are no longer material. I hope that the people I love will find the kind of happiness that I have known. I enjoy time with people more than grand adventures. I don’t need much of anything. The basics do just fine. I am wise enough to know that I might dream of world peace, but it is unlikely to happen in my lifetime. I wonder if there might be ways to reduce racism and hate. I would like to see equality and justice being meted out in every instance. I am weary of abusive and ugly systems that make life difficult for so many of my fellow human beings. If it takes money to decrease the suffering in the world, I am happy to sacrifice some of mine.
I know we can’t take our material goods with us when we die so I am enjoying the days I have and worrying less about money and things. I seem to appreciate the small things about living more and more. Right now I’m all about saving memories and love. When all is said and done these are what matter most.