“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” (Feel free as you sing along to insert the visual of falling snowflakes, gray skies, and biting winds if that will help you ‘get in the spirit’.)
I’m not even going to rant (yet) about the Black Friday ads polluting the media. What I will comment about is the sudden shift in the weather, to bitter cold temps that have signified the change of seasons.
Cooper, my crazy canine companion, and I typically take long morning walks through the neighborhood so he can get his business done. Even that will soon be coming to a close.
He doesn’t like being banished to the back yard, but he’ll manage. Even Cooper is not fond of temperatures in the 20s, and colder wind chills.
For man and beast, the northeast winter is not easy to bear. To warm myself up, I like to reflect on the summer just passed, and how for the majority of the year my family and I take our seats in what is commonly referred to as “the lap of luxury.”
The main component of this luxury for us are the multiple times spent on Lake George during the summer, passengers in my in-laws boat traveling to our favorite bays on the lake. The boat, a 24 foot Cobalt, is the perfect hang out spot as we sun ourselves, indulge in cocktails, have lunch, and frolic about in a variety of water activities.
When we tire of the hours spent on the Lake, we get back to the marina and take a two minute drive to the house where we spend many summer weekends. Recently updated, the house sits in the middle of a nice wooded area, just a minute or so walk from town.
When we’re not staying at the “summer place,” the other component of our luxury filled summer is usually a trip to Cape Cod. This year the family upgraded to an ocean front room, with the beach just a few steps down from our door. The trip is filled with dinners out, ice cream, mini golf, and lazy walks across private beaches, admiring the Atlantic.
To get to the Cape, we pile the kids and our travel bags into my wife’s 2008 VW Jetta. You may think such a pedestrian vehicle is anything but luxury, but with it’s leather seating and Bose sound system, I’ll have to respectfully disagree.
After packing the car, we’ll pull out of our driveway and away from our house, with it’s 1200 square feet of living space and location in an older city neighborhood.
“Finally,” I can hear you say. “Now we have something a little modest here.”
Although I’m sure 1200 square feet sounds to the modern American like we’re living on top of each other, for three of the year’s four seasons that is far from true. Our house features a spacious front porch, large deck out back, with a yard behind it expansive enough to serve as a baseball diamond or soccer pitch.
Within the house, we do our cooking in a newer, luxurious kitchen. We use high end items like San Marzano tomatoes, letting them bubble and simmer away on a stainless steel stove top. I prefer our meals to have the companionship of a deep red wine from the Central Coast of California.
Make no mistake. Despite the “middle class” designation, and the location of our house in a working class neighborhood, this family moves in style. Yes, you may call it the lap of luxury.
Here’s the amusing part. Although you still hear rumblings of hard times, high gas prices, and the cost of living being harder to manage, it still looks to me like most people live this way. But they call it necessity instead of calling it by it’s true name – luxury.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican. Whether you were happy with the latest election results, or dissatisfied. Whether you’re waiting in a line for the latest iGadget, trampling through stores for a Black Friday flat screen, or using said flat screen to receive the siren call of endless Madison Avenue advertisement – like me, you live in the lap of luxury.
But I’m not entirely comfortable lingering in luxury. If I do it too long, I may start to think that I’m entitled to it. That would be a problem for me – joining the ranks of those whose sense of entitlement runs rampant in their attitudes.
As you may expect, I believe I am entitled to nothing. While I may occasionally bask in the sunlight and sip the champagne of American privilege, I still hear the echoes of common sense barreling down the hallways of memory. I’ve got the spirit of more than a couple of Italian immigrants telling me to tighten things up when I’m ready to go too “soft.”
That spirit is a sense of chasing the dream without being concerned about the trappings of luxury. When the truth is told, most of us have more than enough access to the luxury lifestyle. The previous generation that survived the war years, and paved your way, really didn’t.
My grandparents, and their immediate family and friends, appreciated the lifestyle they had, rarely complained about what they didn’t have, and lived by a different standard.
In the words of Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock), they were humble. They stayed hungry. And they were always the hardest worker in the room.
Whether I’m lounging on the lake or in a beach front room, you can be very sure I always remember the old Italians, and the example they showed me throughout their inspiring, and often difficult, lives. Many of us win the lottery of life just by being born into families that love us.
They paved the way for us to enjoy what we have, and we should recognize that here, in the month of gratitude.
Humble and hungry. The definition of true luxury.