Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Material Things

A friend of my posted on Facebook:
Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feelings that you cherished them with.
I don't know. I remember the material things, and the trips. That's why I didn't want to have three, four, or more kids; I wanted to be able to do the same things with them that my parents did with me and my sister, and for them to enjoy it as much as the two of us did.

I remember the Playmobile dashboards that my sister and I each got one Christmas, and that we played together with all the time. I remember being the first family at our school to discover Lego, and introducing both Devra and Sofie to it decades later. I remember the Kenner girder and panel building sets that my father and I worked on, and was disappointed to find out that Kenner no longer exists. I've since found out that they've been revived by Bridge Street Toys. And of course, I remember something that wasn't even mine; the Magnus chord organ that my sister got for Christmas. This is what I taught myself how to play piano on, and we know how important that was.

What about the trips? We didn't venture far out of the northeast. Heck, we didn't venture far out of the NYC metropolitan area. But there was Palisades Amusement Park; the Flemington Fair (which is the closest thing New Jersey had to a state fair); three visits to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair; and a long vacation trip to Quebec, by way of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Montreal (which included my first pass by Syracuse, and seeing the big General Electric sign from the Thruway). There were also day trips to Bear Mountain, Gillette Castle, and Mystic Seaport.

And of course there was the beach. Unlike Jerseyans now, we didn't call it going to the shore. Our regular beach was Sandy Hook, but we also visited Lake Hopatcong, Cheesequake (which my sister and I always mispronounced as "Cheesecake"), and one visit to Cape May, which hooked me for life. Now that's the beach that the Gatlings of Syracuse have been going to for almost 25 years.

Let's not forget trips to New York (actually the St Albans section of Queens), Pittsburgh (really Braddock and Monroeville), Washington DC, and Hampton VA to visit relatives. That first three-day weekend in Hampton led to my sister and I spending the summer there a year later.

But my point, and I do have one, is that it’s not a simple choice between material things on the one hand and feelings on the other. Yes, there are far too many families where the parents try to replace affection and attention with the latest expensive gadget. I also know too many people who grew up with very little money, and seem almost perversely proud of the fact that they and their 11 loving siblings only had a rock and twig to play with…between them. They seem to believe that families with some disposable income can’t possibly be as happy as theirs.

But I think that the most fortunate people are those who, like me and my sister, grew up in families where we had both; where the material things we got and the experiences we were able to have were signs of our parents’ love, and not attempted replacements for it.

And those of us who remember, and treasure, those gifts and experiences will try to do the same for our own children.

Hmm…I guess that means it’s really time to plan that trip to Quebec with Sofie.

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