Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Family Depression

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed, but reruns of the 1970s family drama, “The Waltons” has been showing up on more than one cable channel.

The resurgence – albeit modest – of the Great Depression family throwback hit couldn’t come at a better time because my family is in the throes an economic depression of our own, so with the retro-runs I can show my kids just how fun a depression can be. 

While summer gives my kids more time to ride their bikes, play at the park, swim in the lake, hang out with their friends, it also affords them more time to ask for things.  I can’t imagine how they make it from breakfast to lunch during the school year without grazing a kitchen every half hour.

Just the other night my wife and I were sitting on our front porch swing when my daughter opened the front door and asked if she could have some leftover chili.  My wife said no because they would be having it for lunch the next day.  Two minutes later my son steps out and asks if he could have a few slices of cold cuts.  No, my wife said, the cold cuts are for lunches.  Not five minutes later, my daughter, who obviously lost the toss, opened the door, told us how much she loved us and asked if we could order a pizza.

It’s not as though we don’t feed our children, we do.  Only three hours earlier we were sitting at the table scoffing down bowls of chili and rice.  My son had three helpings to my one. 

And it’s not just food.  Apparently parental greetings now begin with Can I get...?  Can I have…?  Can we buy…? 
The problem is we can’t just spend money that way during the summer.  You see, I am a teacher and just about midsummer my family hits a depression.

Early in June we hit an economic slowdown and eventual recession where any fiscal growth slows, spending comes to a near halt, and employment opportunities are reduced greatly. 

Sure, we tuck some money under the mattress throughout the school year for the rainy day that is June, July and August, but that little cushion has a funny way of losing its stuffing every time we change the sheets.  Wouldn’t it be nice if…? begins the conversation.  We’ll just take a little…it continues.  We’ll make sure to replace it…we vow.  The cushion ends up being a flimsy sheet.

Once September hits we enter into a period of recovery when the demands for goods and services (new clothes, school supplies, activities, fundraisers, etc.) are able to be met with the supply of income (Dad working a couple of after school activities and teaching a couple of courses at the local university). 

However, the recovery is short lived and almost immediately falls into another recession with the onset of the holiday season.

About a month into the new year an economic boon occurs.  With summer impossible to imagine with all that snow and ice, spending becomes a remedy for cabin fever:  Some clothing for us or perhaps a new piece of furniture, a new video game for them because the poor little darlings are stuck inside.  Wouldn’t be nice if…we’ll just take a little…we’ll make sure to replace it. 

The household economy cycles back to the June slowdown followed by the summer depression where there is no room for eating leftovers as a snack, and no room for pizza.

There is room, however, for some fresh air-popped popcorn in front of penny-pinching, purse-string-tightening entertainment and a hopeful lesson for my kids that one does not need a lot of possessions to be happy episodes of “The Waltons,” and, though they may not believe it, they could be much worse off:  They could have even more brothers and sisters.

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