Sunday, May 18, 2008

Poverty is My Salvation

When my husband was 21, he bought a nice old house. This nice old house is our home now and it is about a dozen blocks from downtown Dayton and only 5 blocks from the University of Dayton. I can walk to the grocery store. I have three drug stores within walking distance of my house and I can coast down the hill to the gas station when the car is on fumes. In fact, we only have one car and since my husband has a big bad job 30 minutes away, I walk a lot. As I write this, I can see how picaresque my life must sound. In reality, the reason we only have one car is that an uninsured drunk totaled our second car as it sat parked in front of our house. Staying home with my daughter has made my heart more joyful than I could have guessed, but the decision was made by finances. I simply did not make enough money to cover daycare. Our neighborhood is not exactly the kind of community that makes walking a pleasant experience. Our street is extremely busy and the intersection that I must cross to get anywhere is frightening. There are derelict houses and razed lots sprinkled liberally through out the surrounding streets.

Oh, and it's uphill both ways.
I am not joking.

I live mere blocks away from the highest spot in Dayton, The Woodlawn Cemetery (the Wright Brothers are buried there). I used to walk in the cemetery. It is one of those old Victorian parks that endeavored to be both a beautiful arboretum and a place of final rest. Unfortunately, it is so large and so private that people get mugged there.

Okay, so I live a blighted neighborhood with undervalued potential. My point is that circumstances have placed us in a situation that I could view as dire or delightful. I choose delightful. I have everyday to spend watching my daughter grow. I never need to ask someone where Violet learned a bad habit or what the stain on her shirt is from. I am constantly exercising my creativity to keep us entertained. I am putting all of these lovely/inconvenient things into perspective because my friend and her husband just bought the most fantabulous house I have ever been in. It is gorgeous and full of light and has nearly as many toilets as occupants. They are now completely house poor and it is also a grotesque 45 minutes from where they both work. I know that there are plenty of suburban Mamas who will laugh at that minor commute, but I find it repulsive (I don't like driving much). I can't imagine any residential upgrade that would make me willing to give up my days with my child. I also have more time with my husband and if I spend more than 15 minutes in the car it's because I am going someplace fun.

I am so glad that I have no money. If we were just a little bit wealthier, I may have made very different choices about my life as a mother. I might have gone back to work, put Violet in daycare and struggled to find the time and energy to be the nice Mommy and the nice wife. I know myself. I would not be as close to my child as I am now, if I had to deal with customers all day long. I have a very low threshold for pleasant caregiving. I am much more talented at stretching resources than I am at stretching time. Money can be made and saved, time cannot.

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