(Photcredit: Uploaded by Phostezel)
In our society, money is either demonized or glorified, demonizing it in the end. But I think it is a necessary means for many good and important ends, and I’m all for its pursuit as a means.
My parents came here as sponsored immigrants from Vietnam toward the end of the Vietnam war. I grew up with everything I needed, and my wants were humble. My father worked very hard, no shortcuts and no complaints, and we spent the first decade in roachy apartments and fixer-uppers. We definitely did not roll in the dough, but I felt filled up because my parents were very loving and present, and we were a close-knit family.
The next decade, my father’s steady-does-it did it, and we could finally search for a house to purchase. This was before the internet era (and even before computers were a staple in every home), so every week, my father and I would grab the “Homes for Sale” magazines to peruse over. I was in 7th grade about that time, and that was when I caught the bug.
I remember the first time my father handed me a magazine and told me look in it and see if there were any houses that I liked. I looked forward to the newsprint-grade, grayish pages, the black-and-white, slightly blurry photos of the houses and their real-estatey descriptions—“Lovely, 3 BR, 2 BA, w/fenced-in yard!”—magical! I devoured it all, walking through each one of them in my mind, claiming my room to decorate as I pleased, whooping it up with my little brothers in our yard as the proper tomboy that I was would, and just coming home from school, walking up the steps to our house. It was one of the most exciting times of my life.
My parents ended up deciding on a simple rambler on a corner lot, but it was all brick, roach-free, and had enough land for my father to build the equivalent of a 2-story, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house as an extension. Back then, for us, it was huge.
Around this time, my father’s construction business started growing, and life was very good. My little brothers had fairly healthy appetites for wants, although mine stayed harnessed (being the oldest child, I witnessed and understood more how hard my father had to work to get us all that we had). But everything we wanted, we got.
When I had my own kids, the memory of being poor-yet-happy stuck with me, and so as I struggled in certain areas of my life, being young and a college student with two small children and no real support system, I thought it was fine to not have money as long as I had love to give. It would be years before I realized the flaw in this way of thinking.
You see, unless you don’t mind living in the middle of nowhere and/or have no one to support or answer to, no money is no funny.
At 30, I found myself realizing that I needed money first of all to do the things that really mattered to me, namely, having the abilities to:
- Give my children instruction and experiences to enrich their personal development and nurture their creative and intellectual inclinations;
- Provide for my parents’ retirements.
And there’s more. The truth is, I like many material things and many of my aspirations require acquisition of things that money can buy. I can live without, but I enjoy the feeling that I learned in that space of time with my family where we could live comfortably and fantasize and hope to have. It was a pure and honest delight, very much like Christmas morning to a child.
Today, I live in a small townhouse in the heart of one of the richest counties in the country. It is not a fancy townhouse, not in the most expensive area, and is far from my “wishlist” home (my “dream home,” unlikely to happen, as it includes a luxury bomb shelter, tree suites, and very techie details throughout), but it is what we can afford if we want to stay here (and for now, we do).
Yet, the dream of a nice house that I can carve into the image of my eye’s apple lives on. When I drive by beautiful, well-crafted, happy-looking houses, or see them in “Architectural Digest,” or find them online, my heart still beats ridiculously like a school girl seeing her crush. Some people may have this feeling for cars or clothes or accessories, but the home is the ultimate expression of self – the design, the use of space, the details, the lighting – it is where I can intimately share everything that delights me with those I care about, like a kid sharing their “bestest” toys.
I wanted this wishlist home for my kids, but 2 of them are already grown up and don’t need the large yard and Ewok village I was hoping to have for them, and I don’t need as much space for my youngest one alone. But I still want a home that I can express and create in, with an art and dance studio, and I cannot go minimalist, because I learned something about love through luxury from my sponsor parents, the beautiful people who helped my family escape the Vietnam war and get acclimated to this country.
Whenever I go visit them in Virginia Beach, I am treated with utmost hospitality, with attention to every detail, including the luxurious layers upon layers of bedding, the down pillows, richly cozy furniture and draperies, beautiful soaps and plush towels. I feel very loved and honored in this luxuriated way. I want to have a home where I can give this back to them one day. I want a home with rooms that my grown children and future grandchildren can look forward to staying in. I want a house that I can make bright and beautiful to delight my international friends who come so far to see me, and make them feel like they’re staying in a luxurious retreat.
So, I like things. Things I don’t need. Things that cost money. Things that can pin me down. But they also make warm my heart, brighten my lens, make me soar. And whatever delights me, I love to share.
Mi placer (joy) de casa, es tu placer de casa.