I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time

The world of wanting is cruel, that feeling of never quite having everything you’ve ever wanted, that even if you do, you don’t.

How did we get that way?

Is the grass only greener in America? What about Europe? Asia? I hear Chinese couples may get to start having multiple babies one of these days. I imagine that’s happy news to so many ears, and, to me, that feels right. That feels like it’s about time. That feels like such a stupid horrible rule to begin with. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t think about all those girls sold off into an underworld I don’t want details on, those girls who could have stayed, those new moms who could have cried a little less, if China had never had something so ridiculous as population control.

I bet those Chinese mothers want just as much as I do, as we do. I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time.

I am thinking about things and needs and wants and excess and greed and happiness and fulfillment and why it – life – all feels so hard some of the time. Because Christmas is coming, that holiday we celebrate secularly like so many others across the world, Christians included.

I saw a plastic Santa at a thrift store today. It was one of those retro-looking light-up ones that stands in your yard. Plastic Santa was probably about 4 feet tall. I wanted him.

He was $25, though, and $25 on a Christmas decoration sounds like a purchase I shouldn’t make. And I didn’t.

But the kids, those sweet babies of ours, will expect presents on Christmas. Of course they will. They are kids and we live in America and Christmas, at least as far as I’m concerned, should be as magical and innocent and beautiful as it can for as long as we can make it last. Gifts in paper in excess in living rooms under a sparkly lit-up tree are part of that magic.

I do not want to go to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving. (I want to go there never, but even less so on Thanksgiving.)

I also do not want to participate in Black Friday. The thought of all those people and all those cars and all those clothes that no one will wear two years from now and all that plastic that will break or be swept up by Mom’s broom or forgotten in the closet and all that chaos and energy and need … no. I’m good. I’ll pass. No thank you.

But.

We need presents for our kids, and money doesn’t grow on that tree out back yet and I’m still figuring out how to inherit a rich relative who falls instantly in love with me and leaves us her life’s savings or how to write my own version of “eleanor & park” that I can dedicate to my own loves.

So I’m contemplating going to Wal-Mart.

On Thanksgiving.

And I hate this. About me, about life, about society, about the fact that we’re never satisfied. Why isn’t great good enough? When will it be? And how?

I’m in love with my life. That is not hyperbole.

I am so full in love with my husband that that right there should be enough forever and always and to the moon and back.

And those babies? Those babies who are now 8 and 4 and who sometimes I ask for advice because they just seem that grown up? Oh my world spins because of them.

And everything else – just about – that makes a life: friends, family, a house to call our own, a very good job, music, laughter, streets to run on, cats to cuddle and coffee to warm our souls.

Yeah, I have that. All of that. My color is yellow.

Yet, I still yearn for things we do not have. An upstairs. Sunday dinners with family. More money. More time. More fill in the blank.

So it goes, I guess. Courage and cowboy boots and bottomless red wine maybe can’t change that sort of human nature.

But we can try and cheers to that.

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Where she got that dollar

My son once paid my daughter a dollar to go away and leave him alone.

I found the little girl in the workshop (sewing machines, not wood and tools, remember?) turned temporary kids’ room by herself on her bed, clutching her dollar.

The boy and his friends were outside, carefree and clearly up to something. They eyed me as I walked past, looked down and picked at their fingernails when I said, “Where’s your sister?”

I’d been in the house, see, the grown-up house, doing some grown-up chore like making dinner or washing dishes or starting the dryer a second time so those towels might actually dry.

I asked the little girl: “What are you doing in here all by yourself?”

She looked up at me with those eyes big as moons and smiled. “I don’t know, Mom!”

She is 3. Going on 9.

I scooped her up. I stroked her hair. I asked her where she got that dollar.

She told me.

And I freaked.

And the thing is maybe I shouldn’t have been so upset at the older brother. Because the little girl? She didn’t really seem sad. No. She simply seemed like a little kid in a room filled with toys, television and food, unsupervised. I wonder if the possibilities felt endless.

To me, however, this wasn’t cool. This brother’s bribe was blatant snobbery, selfishness. It was mean.

I don’t like mean.

So. We went outside. The older kids were still gathered by the tree house. Their voices hushed. Their gazes shifty.

Calmly, I asked my son, who is 7, where his sister got that dollar.

He pretended to be confused. (And I thought the mantra I’d been repeating since he learned to talk – “Never lie to your mother. She will always find out” – had gotten through. Silly me). He squinted his eyes, he furrowed his brow, he shrugged his shoulders.

“What dollar?”

And that was when my eyes flew out of my head, bouncing over the lawn to the street.

The boy old enough to know better went to timeout. He said he and his friends had just wanted time alone.

I reminded him what to do when he would prefer his sister not tag along. (It’s simple: Tell your mother or stepfather you’d like time alone AND THEY’LL HELP YOU! We’re awesome like that). Then I did one of these: “You will stay in time out. Until I figure out what your consequence should be!”

That’s the worst, right? Mom or Dad thinking about a punishment. Oh, man.

I ultimately decided to take the piggy bank away from Mr. Money Bags (he has a wealthy, generous great-grandmother) and keep it in my possession.

How long?! the boy wanted to know.

For as long as I feel I need to, I said. (Yes, I did that, too! Pulling out all the stops.)

The boy wasn’t happy but knew he hadn’t made a good choice. He is amazingly wise and clever and intuitive and has always been great at understanding faults, mistakes, what’s gone wrong.

He accepted his consequence and I gave him a hug and told him I loved him and all that business parents do because we mean it (and because no matter what our babies think, punishing them is no fun for us either!).

And we all quietly got up to return to our lives.

That’s when my daughter spoke.

“Mom?” she said. “Can I keep the dollar?”