the simple minded suburbanite


Through a Different Lense
January 17, 2010, 2:07 am
Filed under: budget, suburb, suburbanite | Tags:

Sharon cries that she may lose her house.  She and her family are living on credit cards.  She cannot afford a new coat for herself.  She wants to leave her husband who has not brought home a paycheck for a year-and-a-half.  Who has not really even looked for a job.  Who is fat, now, unshaven, depressed.  Sharon cries at my house.  Often.

Yesterday, Sharon sat at my kitchen table and chatted happily on the phone with a man.  Her husband is out of town.  On a new job.  Contract only.  Part of her 401K cashed in.  Yesterday she chatted happily with a man she found on Craig’s list. Selling an SLR digital camera for only $500.

I tried not to listen.  Tried to busy myself with checking online for a recipe for scallops.  Tried to busy myself checking on the boys skateboarding in the front.  Tried not to listen, much.  Didn’t have to.  Sharon told me all about it when she finished the conversation, agreeing to meet the man at an Applebees off the interstate.  Telling him she was coming with cash in hand, ready to buy.  A camera ain’t so scandalous.

What a great deal!  She said.  I’ve been wanting one for three years.  She said.  Steve wants one too, but he will spend $1,200, if I let him.

I listened.

Are we friends or not?  I thought.  Yes.  I thought.  My husband and I were ready to take her and her two boys in, if needed.  I thought.  I’ve spent many an hour listening to her sorrow and her truth.  I thought.  Just three short weeks ago!  My mind screamed.

Honesty.  It’s difficult in a friendship.  But, I thought, if I can’t hold up a mirror, if I can’t disagree, then are we truly friends?  Is it any of my business?  Wouldn’t I want one of my friends to shine a light for me? It’s not the man I’m worried about.  It’s the camera. 

Craig and Jeanne just sent me a check for $400.  She said.  I wasn’t going to cash it, but they sent me a card that said, ‘Buy yourself something nice.’  The camera, I can use for the whole family!

Craig is Sharon’s husband’s brother.  Craig and his wife Jeanne sent Sharon money after Sharon poured her guts out to them right before Christams begging Craig to do something to motivate her husband to do something.  Find work.  Save her family.

So Craig and Jeanne sent Sharon money.

I know what it is like to go without.  I remember after my husband got his job after being laid off for three months, I ran out and bought this gorgeous royal blue coat I had spied weeks before.  It was vintage looking with one gem-like button that fastened just below my breast line.  It cupped and billowed gracefully and made me feel like a 1940’s movies star.  Still does. I know the blissful feeling that making a spectacular purchase can give a girl.

But we never went into debt.  We never asked nor took money from anyone else.

So, I said…No judgement.  You’re my friend.  I love you.  I gotta throw something out there.  Should you be buying this camera?

But my husband is working now.

For two weeks.  Contract.  No benefits.

I had a windfall of money come in.

What?  Your cashed in 401k?

Craig and Jeanne said, ‘Buy yourself something nice.”

Spend all of it on something nice?  Would they have sent you that kind of money if you hadn’t told them your financial problems?

It was for my birthday.  My Christmas.

Is that what they usually spend on you?

No.  But…

Listen.  It’s not for me to say if you should buy the camera or not.  I get the attraction.  I just want to ask you, ‘If Craig and Jeanne ask you what you bought with the money they sent you, can you tell them the truth without feeling guilty.  And what do you think they will say?’

I don’t know… I guess I’ll think about it.

And on and on it went.  Me trying to point things out.  Her trying to justify.  Me telling her that she could tell me to shut up at any time.  Her circling and circling.

Much later, my husband came home.  It was time to get dinner on the table.  It was time for her to go.  She didn’t seem mad at all.  I reassured her I was not trying to pass judgement.

“I’ll probably still buy the camera and I can’t hide it from you,” she said.

“You don’t need to hide it from you.  You’re my friend.”

We hugged.  She left.

I was just trying to get her to see things through a different lense.  I think we both got a new view of each other.  We’ll see if the picture of our friendship is distorted.  Hmm.

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