Sunday, September 10, 2006

Time After Time

Since my last entry, my nephew Cole and his wife Christy have closed on their house; they've found that the due date for their baby is April 14th, which is one day later than Dad's birthday; and Cole and Christy are halfway moved into their home. They've paid rent on their duplex through September 20th, so they're not facing an urgent deadline to move; as a result, they've been able to move gradually and much less stressfully than mine and Susan's typical move (every move we've made except one was on a 24 to 72 hour deadline, which means that you start out with the intent of moving methodically and deliberately, and you end up tossing things in boxes at random just to get 'em out of the old house while you still have a moving fan available).

It's hard to believe that Cole, at the age of 21, has a 1600 square foot house with central heat and air; a computer; digital cable and a PVR; cable modem access; an HDTV; a dolby digital surround sound stereo system... the list goes on. I'm not talking about Cole in particular, really; I'm talking about the ever-rising standard of living that makes it possible for a couple married less than a year to have all of these things as part of a normal middle class existence.

A year after Susan and I were married, we couldn't have possibly bought a home; we had one small window air conditioner that semi-cooled one room in our house; we had an electric typewriter; we had a cheapo Singer stereo system (yes, the same Singer that makes sewing machines used to sell stereo systems); we had a 15" black and white television (didn't get our first color television of our own until we had been married for three years). And we considered ourselves solidly middle class; we had more than many of our friends who were our age.

Those who talk about the middle class pinch and family budget woes ignore the fact that our standard of living as a culture has risen exponentially with each decade. What is considered basic middle class now would have been upper-middle ten years ago and lower-upper-class ten years before that. Our economy makes it possible for people to have a tremendous quality of life for a much smaller investment than ever before.

I'm sure that, if Dad ever got on the internet and read this, he would point out that what Susan and I had after a year of marriage was phenomenal compared to what he and Mom had after their first year of marriage. And if my grandmother were still alive, she's undoubtedly point out how much better Dad and Mom had it than she and my grandfather did when they had been married a year.

Pretty amazing, when you think about it. And I have to wonder what will be considered a "middle class necessity" for Cole and Christy's child when he or she turns 21...

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