Contentment & Debt
I stood in the toy and candy aisle of the "Five and Dime" with my aunt and younger cousins. Small change could buy several treasures to delight a child, when our currency was not yet utterly debauched.
We frequented Mom & Pop stores as community gathering places, variety shops with something of everything:
Needle and thread, liniment, soap, penny candy, a jack-in-the-box, a root beer float, local news, thumb tacks, notebooks, clothes line, socks.... And more, with a long-handled pincer tool to reach the tallest shelves.
A special day, my aunt handed a dollar bill into each cousin's grubby paw. We'd been playing in the dirt.
When I looked crestfallen, she rummaged in her pocketbook again and handed me a dollar. She's still a kind-heart.
That was our limit. Help each other do the math. It has to add up to a dollar or less. She beamed at our agony and ecstasy of decision-making and went off to do her own shopping.
We kids pounced on treats, yes/no/maybe, did our tallies and paid within budget, all but strutting our acumen!
Years later, I had a trust fund client who slouched in doing a model-impersonation on entry. Nice, but I sat pondering her eating disorder and various out-of-control behaviors.
With nutritional malabsorption, she never felt satisfied, in any way. That template had a shaky emotional foundation.
She absolutely refused to prepare food at home, out of fury at her parents who had handed her to servants and walked away.
She spent lavish money as an act of revenge; they owed it to her. (Latch-key kids can grow into some dismal swamp variation on that theme.)
Trust Fund-ette routinely maxed her enormous-balance credit card, and all but spat like a cornered feline. Yet neither spending nor the things money bought had ever filled her void.
Which brings me to Black Monday, and our debt-based societal dam-burst to lay schlock and electronics under the plastic Christmas trees.
Remember Kurt Vonnegut? He had this to say:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."