I cut apple slices and the kids pull up the homemade (and still unpainted) wooden stools to the computer screen. I bring over Vivi’s rickety highchair, the 40-year-old one I fell in love with at a garage sale (that now has a gaping crack down the back), and situate her between her sisters.
We’re watching a home-buying show and the camera pans marble counter tops, large foyers with loads of storage, gleaming appliances, cavernous showers, and sprawling acreages. The husband and wife deliberate on their final choice; how will they ever decide?
“I’d pick the third one. The Cape Cod with 4,000 square feet that’s all brand new,” says Susanna.
“Not me,” responds Belén. “The first is way better. Did you see those trails through the trees and the pool in in the backyard?”
Soon the credits roll and I sigh. Looking around my living space that suddenly seems cramped and shabby, I wonder why we’re still using the old press-board bookcase my parents gave us when we moved back to Canada. Surely we could afford something better by now! And the paint colour in the living room is starting to feel obnoxious–I’ll definitely have to change it this spring.
Belén jumps off her stool and picks Vivi’s stuffed animals off the floor. Then she heads to the craft cabinet and starts shuffling the mound of papers that accumulate daily.
“What are you doing?” I ask Belén while both Susanna and I stare. “Are you trying to spruce this place up?”
“Yes,” she answers emphatically.
Meanwhile, Susanna is thinking hard. “Mom, we need to sell our house,” she concludes. “We need something bigger. Newer. Like those houses.”
Then I realize we all feel the same way. I also realize this is exactly how we’re supposed to feel. That the producers of the show have done a fine job, if money is the bottom line and the show is meant to generate revenue for their sponsors. I also know that people buy things when they respond to felt needs. Which means we have to be made to feel we don’t have enough, to be of any use as consumers.
I explain all this to the girls and tell them to think about it the next time they want something newer, bigger or better. It’s not that buying new things is bad, or that wanting to change your paint colour is bad, or that TV is bad, or that spending money is bad. These can all be life-giving creative expressions. What I am wary of is allowing myself to be influenced by companies who benefit when I feel I lack something. Or, in other words, manufactured dissatisfaction. I tell my daughters that it’s dangerous to listen to someone who tells you what you need, especially when they end up with your cash.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, without staring at a screen, of what makes us feel rich and satiated. Often, these very things are never mentioned in any kind of advertisement or marketing campaign. My list is very Tricia-specific and though it’s similar to a gratitude list, it’s more narrow in focus. While I am certainly thankful for my friends, family, and health, not everything I am grateful for fits on the list. The “rich list” is not abstract, but made of the lush details in my life that really do make me feel wealthy–that I have even more than enough.
This list is about butter and real whipped cream and buttermilk and full-fat yoghurt and cream cheese and having them all in my fridge before their expiry date is up, even when I don’t have a recipe in mind in which to use them.
It’s about deep powdery snow that covers the wheat stubble in the fields and sprays behind ski-doos and weighs heavily on spruce-tree boughs.
It’s about pulling a pillow-case from my linen drawer in the middle of January that was line-dried outside and still smells like last summer.
It’s about the size of my chalkboard.
It’s about leaving the library with 32 books in the stroller and telling my older daughters they have to stop reading–at least until we cross Broadway and reach the sidewalk where it’s safer with your nose in a book.
It’s about sprinkling fresh herbs on a plateful of vegetables when the world outside my window is frozen solid; green onions on sweet potato soup, cilantro on pad thai, and rosemary on roasted potatoes.
It’s about hand-made pottery mugs.
It’s about ski-pants with crotch zippers for ventilation.
It’s about burning beeswax candles on any old week night, just because.
When Stan comes home from work he steps into the kitchen with his boots on. They’re still dripping with melted snow and leaving dirty puddles on the floor, which usually irritates me but this time I don’t mention it. Instead, I stand on tip-toes and put my hands around his neck. “Welcome home–home to where your wife loves you, where you have three beautiful daughters, and where there’s insulation in the attic.”
My husband is surprised by my lavish greeting and pulls back. “Whoa… What’s this about?” he asks.
“Oh, we watched this show and thought we needed a new home, but now we don’t.” I go back to chopping herbs for dinner; fresh green onions on sweet potato coconut curry soup. Things don’t always turn around this fast. Tomorrow I might feel the same way I did a few minutes ago. Which is why I need the list to remind myself.
*I wrote this post a year ago and it languished in my draft folder until this morning, when I re-read it. Initially I thought readers would think it trite, but it’s true, so I’m posting it.
** What makes you feel rich? Leave your lavish remarks in the comments! I’d love to know.