Friday, June 26, 2009

The Material World ...

Boston, sun and thunderstorms ... Go figure!

The guiding mantra in real estate, we all know, is "location, location, location." But Lauri and I didn't plan to buy a home in Hamilton. Our Beverly apartment was sold out from under us shortly after we got engaged. We started canvassing the entire North Shore, and happened upon a quaint cottage on a quiet circle in this bucolic hamlet. We were sold.

Lauri was the visionary. She saw the potential in the neighborhood for raising a family – lots of young couples, a safe street, schools with good reputations. What we didn't foresee was the demands that living in a wealthy town would place on us, and our kids.

Hamilton is an affluent community. That's just a fact. Our neighborhood abuts the Myopia Hunt & Polo Club (the baying hounds kept me awake until dawn our first night, and I thought we'd made a catastrophic mistake). Beneath the veneer comes subtle and sometimes exasperating baggage. Once, a good friend's son, with the unregulated honesty of a 9-year-old, asked during a visit: "Dad, why is their house so small?" My friend was apologetic, but I laughed it off. "It's true," I told him.

But this materialistic "arms race" got trickier once our girls came along. When she was in 3rd grade, Mary, our eldest, began dropping hints about getting a swimming pool. When I finally asked why a pool suddenly became so important, especially when we had access to several in the neighborhood, she spilled the beans. Apparently, a friend told her: "Why would I want a play date at your house? You don't have a pool."

It's only gotten more challenging. While carpooling to hockey or soccer, I've overheard kids brag about many toys they have to how gigantic their houses are. I know that's natural, and most of it is good-natured. This is what kids do. I keep reminding Mary and Brynne that there will always be those with more, and those with less. It's not the size of the house that matters, I tell them, but how much love is found inside those four walls. Our girls will never have every bauble. Now 12 and 10, they don't have Wii or X-Box or Play-Station or cell phones (though Mary finally got an iPod this past Christmas). They don't have their own TV, or their own computer. They share a room, with bunk beds.

That's OK with Lauri and me. We believe it's a good life lesson. I'm a freelance writer, and admittedly that's not the fast track to "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous." Mom works too. But we both love what we do, and try to impart that philosophy on the girls. Mary and Brynne have never had to worry about having good cloths, good food, plenty of after-school activities, and a warm home filled with big hugs. And we're always here for them.



Matt O'Connor said...

The funny thing is, you could probably have a pool if you had that garage sale... Does Lauri see these comments? :)

Unknown said...

Man, once again I have to commend you guys as world-class parents.

My wife has two nephews in a family that has been on public assistance forever - they have nothing. The oldest is 16 and is a great kid (we won't talk about the younger one...) - I was with him this weekend. Some of the crap he goes thru as a "poor" kid totally sucks. He's smart enough to know what's going on and tries to dismiss it, but it's gotta hurt. We try to do what we can for the kids, but we could always do more.

Unknown said...

Oh yeah, when is the garage sale?