She stopped by to visit and asked to see the new crib. I adore it; it’s lovely and the symbol of so many dreams of to come. Of course I’d be happy to show it.
She’s expecting too. Conversation naturally turned to comparing mama notes. I showed her the new dresser we got to go with the crib and joked about my husband’s love of his shoes and shirts from the USA. If I could get him to give up some, perhaps we wouldn’t need the dresser! We laughed. She said she was looking at buying a new dresser as well. Her family had given her so many children’s clothes for the new baby that they no longer fit in the closet! She needed more space.
“The price on that dresser wasn’t all that bad,” I said, “We got a good deal on it, around R$300” and her eyes grew large. “R$300?” I saw the chasm crack open between us. Shit. Shit. Shit. I demurred, too late. She asked about the cost of the crib, if we got a package discount to buy it all. I hedged at answering the question (because, no, we paid full price) and avoided mentioning how much money we spent. Crap. Crappity-crap. I’d gone and put my foot in it. No matter what I answered, it was going to be more than she could imagine having at one time. Never mind that we’re going to do payments. Never mind that I’m going to have to go back to work to make it all work in the long-term. The rich American woman had bought the gorgeous crib set she could never afford.
There are different sorts of riches in life. There is money and there are the riches of family, blood relations and collected friends. Unlike hers, our dresser drawers are still empty. They are not, and probably never will be, exploding with gifts from family. At home my tribal wealth was a stunning web that made me proud: beautiful, extended, colorful, and varied. Here, far from it all, bearing my first child, more than once I have questioned my craziness for straying so far from that dragon’s trove of love.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? She longs for the pretty, shiny things that money can buy. My heart breaks for second-hand clothing passed along from fellow mothers looking out for my best interests. I probably couldn’t convince her if I tried—she, who lives so painfully close to poverty—that in this case her wealth outstrips mine.
Life gives us various sorts of riches. So often we can’t see the ones we have because we’re striving to reach for the one that we don’t. It’s Thanksgiving time in the United States. Time to say thanks to God or the Universe—or even just the person next to you who spent four hours in the kitchen cooking that turkey you’re gonna chow—for the gifts we have been given.
In that spirit, I say Thank You. For the food on our table. For our two decent jobs that mean that our kid won’t have everything shiny, but she probably will have what she needs. For the few, new, fledgling friends here who have dug through the back of their closets to find me loose shirts and maxi dresses for maternity wear. For the tried and true friends and family back home who are reaching out across an ocean to pass along a few key items. For my mom who’s coming for the birth and going to make it all fit into her two suitcases.
There’s all sorts of riches in life. These are mine. What are yours?
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