"Mommy, why are we so poor?" my 10-year-old son asked recently, out of the blue.
This was a perplexing question, since I had not really considered us so low on the totem pole of life. Both my husband and I are employed to our educational capacity with doctoral-level jobs. We live in a community that by many objective and subjective measures would be considered fairly desirable. We have a house with enough room for everyone, and with a back and a front yard. My son had already traveled on three continents by the time he was 5 years old. I would venture to say we are firmly in the middle of the pack.
So I asked my son--who, by the way, is the antithesis of a materially deprived child--why he thought we were down on our luck.
"Because our TVs suck," he replied. Actually, he used a much milder word, but the word "suck" seems to best reflect the disdain in his voice and facial expression.
OK, he had a point. we have four TVs, none of which were purchased in this millennium. One has a built-in VCR slot, all are boxy and heavy enough to do real damage if dropped on a foot, and all have screens that are somewhere in the 20something-inch range.
I get that people nowadays (and by "nowadays," I mean the past 25 years) prefer larger, sleeker televisions. People opine about their HDTV and surround sound. And I, truthfully, have never met an electronic gadget that I didn't want. And, despite our presumed impoverished state, I will admit to having purchased many, many of these electronic devices. Just not TVs.
But the problem with our hulking, but deceptively small-screened televisions is they still work. What does one do with four 80-pound boxes of transistors? We could donate them to charity, I suppose. But we have previously had items rejected from Goodwill and Salvation Army, and that is a humiliation no one needs to endure more than once in a lifetime. The televisions are too big to fit in our trash cans, which would mean arranging for a special collection by our local waste management service. This is nether pleasant nor cheap. I don't know which family member is going to lug hundreds of pounds of dated machinery to our driveway and risk neighbors seeing how clunky out technology is. These TVs have been with us for probably six or seven residences, and the stress of having to reinstall cables and DVD players and extension cords is just too much to contemplate. And, did I mention the TVs still work?
I made a mental note never to let him go over a friend's house again, lest the rest of our belongings seem even more sucky in comparison.