Monday, November 24, 2008

different times

I worked at home today, enjoying the pleasure of staying indoors when the world outside looked rather gray, or at best, white-on-gray.

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My only venture was to take the elevator downstairs to retrieve the mail. Typically, I open the mailbox and the trash receptor at the same time. Things pass from one to the other so quickly that I worry if someday I’ll neglect to pick out the envelope with an unexpected, but completely legitimate gift of cash from some distant friend. Here’s a thousand, for your unfailing loyalty. Eh, unlikely.

Today though I needed a break from stuff upstairs and so I took the time to actually leaf through catalogues. Nueske’s is begging me to come back and be their customer again. Hey, they’ve moved beyond just plain old bacon! And Pottery Barn bed and bath – so crisp! And Barney’s CO-Op – so ravishing! And one more -- Williams Sonoma. There were days when I actually considered upgrading juice tumblers. Such pretty juice tumblers!

I threw it all away of course. Even before the economy tanked, three things happened to put me into a state of purchasing celibacy: first, I overspent on overseas travel and must make up for the error of my ways; secondly, I intend to travel in the future, and so (here's a novel idea) I must save for this; and finally – I started hanging out with a guy who never wants to acquire anything unless it’s absolutely necessary and it is the cheapest such item in the entire marketplace and that includes searching Ebay. He cannot, for example, understand why I purchased a new cell phone when I could have bought someone’s old one on Ebay for one tenth the price.

And so I have not been buying much of anything. And mostly, the move toward strict purchasing frugality is a good one. Take an old pair of pants and pretend the shortened leg is on purpose! Or wear a boot over it. And a loose sweater to cover the fact that it doesn’t fit as well. Something to do with years of overwashing, or overeating, or both.

And yet…

Don’t tell anyone, but…I miss those days. Yes, sure, beyond my means excesses, sure, I know, I know, but I miss those days when it all seemed possible. A sweater from Barney’s Coop, pillow cases from Pottery Barn, because I once thought that torn pillowcases could be replaced rather than sewn up many many times and used ‘til they are virtually colorless from overwashing. I miss the moments of indulgence – the buying of a special wine to save for a special day. I have a wine cooler now, but it is growing empty as special days drain its contents and nothing of value is added. I miss buying art rather than trying to sell my own. I miss buying one hundred dollars worth of perennials for the yard, come spring. I did that in the past. Not often, but still, it happened. I miss buying a book at Borders for keeps and not for a day, after which reason nags at me and I reluctantly take it back.

It is, I know, unseemly to feel wistful while leafing through catalogues, when people are losing homes to which junk mail could be delivered. Or maybe it is exactly right to think back to the days when we felt endlessly optimistic and purchased creams that smelled of rosemary and lavender. Maybe now that we have sampled both excess and collapse, we can settle in for a happy middle ride, with health care for all and less taste for things that are beyond what the pay check can handle. Just an occasional sweater, one book, and one jar of cream. No more. I promise.


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