We were sitting in a booth at our favorite little Italian restaurant, my boyfriend and me, eating the same meal, fixed differently. We are different that way, a lot of ways, really, my boyfriend and me. Even though we’ve been together going on some 37 years now, people who know us best still marvel over that. We were the couple everyone figured wouldn’t make it. We figured it ourselves sometimes.
If you look in the dictionary under “opposites”, you might find a picture of my boyfriend and me.
So it wasn’t any surprise really, that as we sat there eating our dinner, my boyfriend and I were deep into a discussion about how I really don’t desire the things proferred by a system that assumes everybody wants the same thing: To be wealthy.
Don’t get me wrong, I told my boyfriend. I’ve no desire to go live in a trailer on cinder blocks ever again. Nuh-huh. No. Thank. You.But by the same token, I don’t now and have never desired to be rich. Or famous.
I’m not saying my boyfriend wants to be famous, he doesn’t. But he would like to have his own plane. A private jet, maybe. And some car whose name I can’t even remember. And a house on lots of acreage, so he could be a gentleman farmer. Not the kind of dirt farmer his grandfather was, mind you. Not the real working farmer. But a casual farmer. One well off enough to go and come as he pleased. The Downton Abbey kind of farmer, I think.
I’ve known the man for over half my life and didn’t have a clue I was married to a farmer at heart.
I am a practical woman when I want to be. The thought of owning acerage translates to work to me. My boyfriend can’t even get a two-car garage cleaned out over the summer. Can you imagine what he could do with all that acerage? I’ve got girlfriends whose boyfriends left them with acreage and a bunch of sheds and garages and outbuildings, whatever the heck those are, full of tractors and tools and all kinds of doohickeys my girlfriends have no use for.
I bet even Wendell Berry, for all his simple living preaching, has sheds full of stuff that needs getting shed of.
I mentioned to my boyfriend that we have three grandsons now and we are rich in ways we never imagined. Having a bigger house, more property, animals to feed and fields to mow would only complicate our lives. We’d be so tied down cleaning up poop from the animals we’d never have time to run off and see the grandboys.
We carry on like this sometimes, my boyfriend and me.
I told him I’d been reading the articles on the feuding over Bobbi Kristina’s death. And the awful family bickering that went on over the millions of former New York Socialite Brooke Astor. My boyfriend has no idea who any of these people are, so I feel it’s my obligation to educate him about the cultural icons of the rich and famous.
My boyfriend didn’t know that Ms. Astor’s millions were left to the daughter-in-law she couldn’t stand. I don’t have a daughter-in-law, but if I did and I couldn’t stand her, I couldn’t rest easy knowing she had inherited the millions I had inherited from my dead (third) husband the way Brooke Astor did.
See, that right there is one reason why I never want to be rich or famous, I told my boyfriend. The people I know who are rich and famous spend way too much time with attorneys and in courtrooms. My days as a court reporter convinced me that I wanted to spend as little time as possible in a courtroom and to maintain a healthy distance from attorneys whenever possible.
When you are rich everybody is suing you.
Or kissing up to you.
Or abusing you, which everybody recognizes is so much worse, but is exactly what happened to both Bobbi and Brooke. Poor things. (Well, you know what I mean.)
Growing up in that trailer park has served me well, I think. It taught me some things about life and what I want from it and what I don’t. Growing up like that makes some people hungry for money, and power. Poverty can be a great motivator, no doubt about it, but if a person isn’t careful it can skew things wrong the other way.
I never cared much about loads of money or power. Ever since I was that girl in the trailer park, the thing I longed for most was to be loved, and to feel safe again, the way I had before my daddy up and died. The way we all had. And, blessed by the Lord, I have all that, now. I’ve had all that for a long time now.
I am not rich. I don’t suspect I will ever be. Well, except as I told my boyfriend, compared to the bulk of the world, I am already a very wealthy woman. I have running water and indoor plumbing. My great-aunt Cil never did have an indoor toilet, but she had a two-seater out back and two-seaters were rare in her neighborhood. I guess there would be some who thought her rich.
I’m grateful every day that my boyfriend loves me even though I don’t want the same things he wants. He loves me even though I think private jets are silly and dumb, and I’d never fly in one, especially, as I told him, if he was behind the wheel. My boyfriend loves me even though he knows I’ll never agree to buying any farm, gentleman or otherwise (but I could easily be persuaded to build a home along Mobile Bay or a Granny house in Bend one day).
As any woman can testify, when your boyfriend loves you, wholeheartedly, that makes for a very rich life, indeed – even in a house with a one-seater.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of the forthcoming Burdy (Mercer Univeristy Press).