I often hear parents complain about kids who seem to think the definition of infinity is the balance in their parents’ checkbook. I’ve never had that issue with my kids, both of whom are ridiculously thrifty—possibly because they’ve been trained by the master: not me; their father. (I will admit he also gave me an education on finding good deals during the years we were married.) So when I went a few days ago to help my son set up his first apartment, I came prepared for some major bargain shopping.
Like Daniel, who experimented in our kitchen this summer, his two roommates are also looking forward to cooking their own meals. And unlike the boys I knew in college whose apartments were furnished mostly with cinderblocks and dirty dishes, these guys seem to care what their living quarters look like. (What I want to know is: where were the men like this back when I was looking for husband material??)
Besides decorating, and cooking from scratch, all three of them want to do this as cheaply as possible–to save their parents as much money as possible. (Yes, there really are kids like this in the United States of America.) And I am a living witness as proof that you can equip an entire apartment for less than half the cost of a Williams Sonoma cappuccino machine.
It helps that they inherited a free TV set that someone gave away last semester. It helps that they’re not too proud to scavenge around in thrift shops. And for the rest, instead of “Abracadabra”, the magic word is “WalMart.”
For my part, shopping with big strong boys means the heaviest thing I have to lift is my wallet. And no heavy wallet-lifting since they are such bargain hunters. So for me this is a win/win situation and I enjoy every minute. And as we shop, I can’t help remembering bargains I made in the past–which make it possible for me to enjoy this experience in the present. My bargains were not in money, but in time.
When Daniel, my younger child, was just starting first grade in a new school, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was certain I was going to die. Children were allowed to participate in the school play beginning in third grade. As I sobbed through the entire performance of “The Music Man”, I remember making a silent bargain with whoever was listening: “Please, please, let me live until he’s in third grade–so at least I can see him in a play.”
By third grade, after watching Daniel perform in the chorus of “The Sound of Music,” I made a new bargain: “Anything—just let me make it to middle school.”
In his first year of middle school, Daniel starred in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. And now plays weren’t enough anymore. I used more bargaining chips. “All I want is to see him start high school. Then I’ll be satisfied.”
But of course I wasn’t. I wanted more; I wanted to live longer, long enough to see him graduate from high school. And start college.
Which is how I made it to this latest milestone I never expected to see–his first apartment. Each new experience brings so much joy, so much gratitude, that I’m careful not to ask for too much. Because I’m still making bargains with the universe– and I’ve been given so much more than I bargained for.