I was pondering City Mom's post about how hard it is to get a toe-hold on a decent lifestyle these days. Let's face it -- even taking a decent vacation and owning your own home can seem woefully out of reach these days. Perhaps that's one reason why more Americans are placing an emphasis on doing, rather than having, as The New York Times reports.
Thinking over this, I recalled two families whose lifestyles I greatly admire -- so much that it occurred to me when visiting them, "I love the way they live." Neither involved a great deal of money.
The first family are friends who live in Seattle, whom I met while working abroad. An extremely well-educated, -read and -traveled couple, the kind of folks with whom talking for hours is an end to itself. Calm. Funny. They were vegetarians to boot, and could make a mean cup of strong coffee with a French press, which you could drink while listening to Ira Glass on the radio of a morning. You get the picture. They shopped at Goodwill; their small Craftsman home had old shag carpeting and a huge compost heap. They shopped at a co-op. Their little girl was bright and talkative, and enjoying lounging on the belly of their friendly big dog. Mount Ranier glimmered in the distance on the rare day it didn't rain. So strong was the pull of this lifestyle that I up and moved to Seattle to try it out for myself. Sadly, it proved hard for a single 20-something from Manhattan to achieve. (It might work now, but The Dude is reluctant to move again.)
The other family lives down south, off of the Intercoastal in Florida. Again, hyper-intelligent and well-read and quirky. Their home is similarly modest, but is equipped with top-notch dive equipment and a big, well-used fishing boat. Family factions take off now and then to kayak in Costa Rica or to visit friends in Hong Kong. Pull up there, and someone will dust off a wine glass (and a seat for you) and check the lobster traps for a catch, which, if you're lucky, will reap a simply prepared, scrumptious feast. There are no formalities; folks drift in and out of the party, sometimes to nap; sometimes just to read the paper. Come as you are. Stay as long as you want.
I'm not saying I didn't deeply desire the life of a couple of my Manhattan friends, who will inherit their folks' classic six. I've often thought, while considering a well-turned-out, older couple leaving a performance at the Met, "This is how I want to spend my golden years." It just seemed like these other modest folks had no interest, or use for, profligate lifestyles. In fact, their homey surroundings just allowed their priceless values to shine more brightly. Just like my friend CityMom.
On the other hand -- both of those families did buy their homes relatively cheaply, way back when. And their excellent educations would cost dearly now. And the stylish couple leaving the opera? One is probably a banker.