Saturday, May 2, 2009

Avoiding Affluenza

The (stupid) economy. It was only a matter of time until we Pierces felt it directly. I have enough friends who have lost work. My brother was laid off in December. Shawn's dad was one of the first casualties a year and a half ago. Now, we are preparing for a drop in income and I am wracking my brain for ways to save the money we do bring in.

Let me qualify this income cut we're taking by saying that, in many ways, I chose it and am looking forward to it. The non-profit I work for, School on Wheels, is trying to cut a significant chunk of change from our budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year and our Executive Director let us know she wanted to do this while avoiding laying off any staff. So, the whole staff was presented with a slew of money saving propositions for us to consider with the hope that enough of us would step up and do something thereby saving every one's jobs. One option was to go from working full-time to part-time. I have wanted to work part-time since Violet was born but was afraid I wouldn't have a job at School on Wheels as a part-time employee. Now that I am actually going to be working part-time, however, I am getting a little anxious about how we are going to make ends meet.

Shawn and I are not rich, not you thought a school teacher and a non-profit manager would be loaded, but important to clarify, nonetheless. So I am going to try to remember, as we go from "not rich" to "getting by" in the next few months, that the things Violet will remember as she gets older are not going to be labels on clothes or how fancy her birthday parties were. If she is like me, she's going to remember feelings and smells, things far less tangible, and, fortunately, things that are free.

My parents, like Shawn and me, were "not rich" for most of my childhood. My Dad worked in ball bearing sales (the glamour!) and my mom stayed at home. They put 3 kids through parochial school. We went on one driving vacation a year, sometimes to Texas to visit family, sometimes to the beach to stay in a condo. We never ate out--I mean, McDonald's was a luxury. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I remember going to a sit-down restaurant. If my Mom's side of the family was visiting we might hit up a casual dining restaurant and even then, we'd do places like The Ground Round. We shopped at the 80's version of Costco, called Cub Foods, and my mom clipped and filed coupons for each trip. I know we did get new clothes from time to time, but I don't really remember big shopping trips to get them.

The things I do remember from being a kid have little to do with what we didn't have and everything to do with all that we did get. I remember getting a nickel to ride the Atlas grocery mechanical horse. I remember Mom buying a candy that was wax tubes filled with colored sugary water and letting us spit the chewed up globs of wax out the windows of the van. What the F were those things, anyway? I remember knowing there had to be a Santa because my parents wouldn't ever buy me all of those toys. I remember the way Mom made banners for Jeff and Andy when their birthdays fell on school days and hung them in the breakfast room so they'd get to have a party before school. I remember Dad making homemade egg rolls. I remember eating cherry turnovers and watching Dallas with all 5 of us. I remember catching lightening bugs with my Dad in the front yard. Summer memories are full of days at the Rivi swimming pool eating sandwiches and Goldfish while Mom laid out on the deck.

Once I got to about junior high, my Mom had finished school and gone back to work and my Dad must have gotten a few promotions because we started to have more. I would ask for a certain pair of shoes and they'd get them for me. We took a vacation in the winter and the summer. We'd go out for Mexican food or order pizza more often. It was subtle enough of a change I didn't even notice it at the time. By the time I graduated from high school, I had grown accustomed to getting a new dress before every dance and a $20 a week allowance. How lucky was I?

But what I need to remember is that is was not always that way in my family and I was none the wiser. In fact, I am probably better off for not having had whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. So, while Shawn and I are going to have to watch every penny, we needn't worry that Violet will know that we're doing it. She is going to remember how we took her to see the chickens--maybe not this trip, but future trips. She'll remember helping me frost cupcakes or getting to stay up late on summer nights playing and sweating with her cousins while the grown ups talk. Violet will remember eating cereal and watching Sesame Street while Scout begs at her feet. I hope Violet will remember snuggling between her Mommy and Daddy, feeling so safe and comfy, and knowing no other way to be.


Jen said...

Where are the chickens??? Mom still makes cherry turnovers. How good are those things?

Jill said...

They have lots of nice chickens and one very mean rooster at Trader's Point Creamery. And, yes, cherry turnovers are delish!

Aly said...

One of my favorite times growing up was when things were incredibly tight money-wise for my mom. It made us go back to the basics of being a family, which we truly enjoyed. I remember that year more than any gift I received in the 5 years surrounding it.