Tuesday, July 03, 2007

33 Months

It's July, in the year 2007 and we find ourselves in the class bracket that we commonly refer to as the dwindling middle class. What this means is that in this country we are witnessing the death of the middle class (for the most part it's already happened). It's quite noticeable in San Diego where, in the current economical atmosphere, it is impossible for 95% of the population to buy a house and live above water.

I remember when...

Our parents lived in semi-suburban enclaves with houses large enough to accommodate three kids and kidney shaped pools in the backyard with a dog running around it and a cat lounging on the stoop. We had summers free to explore the wasteland of canyons and abandoned golf courses and sweet hot nights watching fat bugs buzz around streetlamps. It was a time when both of our parents weren't required to work and it was still possible to pay the bills and fed the children. We took vacations to Europe or Australia, spent weeks at a time at the desert or the river or the lake. It was a time when our capitalistic culture remained true to the promise of a working class.

Somewhere, early in my youth, that promise began to slip away from all of us. Our lives began to grow beyond our capacity. We began working overtime, or two to three jobs at a time, just so that we could pay for our lifestyle, until it finally became mandatory for both parents to work. A mountain of cheap debt slowly sifted over us until we could no longer breathe. The dream of hope for the American worker began to fade into obscurity.

Both Xtina and I have made great efforts so that we may live a life that we find valuable. Fortunately the two of us remain on the same page regarding what that means. We've struggled against the culture of consumption that has devoured so many around us. We have a our moments, but for an album or an outfit or two here and there, it seems to be working for us. We've had plenty of help from our family, not one dollar going toward childcare and were basically given the house that we currently live in. So we have our fortune and we're constantly reminding ourselves to appreciate it, but it isn't the life we imagined and it definitely isn't the life where our parents raised us. But the the worst part about it is that if we wanted to move up into what we consider the next level, which would basically be closer to the middle class lifestyle we grew up with, then we would have to change everything that we currently hold for granted. No more free time, no more free childcare, no more simple pleasures, no more vacations, no more part time work, and much more financial difficulty.

For some reason this type of existence doesn't appeal to us.

Here's one of the simple pleasures that I'm talking about. Yesterday, which was a Monday, one of the days that Xtina doesn't have to go to work, I returned home for the day and we jumped into our car so that we could take care of a couple of things we'd neglected for far too long. Afterward we had an hour to waste until we were going to dinner at Xtina's parents' house, so we decided to go to the dog park in Balboa. Once our dogs grew tired of sniffing butts we meandered back to the car. One of the great joys about children that seems to mysteriously vanish as we grow old is the ability to catch the small beauty that exists everywhere in our environment. So as we walked back to the car Lucas rambled along stopping to hug a tree or smell a flower or investigate the decay of something in the grass. Soon we discovered a large grassy hill that probably looked like Ireland to him. He immediately began to run and jump and roll down the hill, cackling toward the planes landing overhead. It brought a big smile to our faces but, after a short while, I began to grow a bit antsy and went to bring him back so that we could leave. Xtina quickly reminded me that I might want to let our little bundle of energy embrace the delight of the earth, nothing was as important or as precious.

So I sat back down and watched Lucas wrestle with the grass. She was right, just seeing the smile on his face as he kicked his bare feet in the air was enough for me to realize that even though we may no longer have a middle class here in America, once we change our priorities then maybe we'll have time to cherish the precious moments that still come our way.

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