Having extra means feeling rich


Custom made pillow covers. A splurge.


By Caitlin Kelly


She had in her early teens what some would call “a reversal”, my late step-mother, and so, later in life when I knew her, she owned a lot of stuff.

She never talked about her family of origin; in 40 years of knowing her, I only learned the names of her mother, brother and sister — none of whom I ever met — but never that of her father, who had been well-off, then wasn’t.

Never having gone to university, needing to work right away, she later worked as a highly successful writer and editor of TV show scripts and, in good years, made a lot of money, which she spent on expensive shoes and jewelry, amassing garment racks filled with designer clothes, her cupboards bursting with products and cosmetics…all of which proved even more overwhelming to dispose of for my father when she died of lung cancer at 63.

I never understood why having so much stuff — basically, extras of everything — could feel so satisfying.

Now I do.

When Jose and met and started dating 20 years ago, times were tough for me and he was extremely generous, buying me everything from a colander and toaster to new air conditioners. I was living alone,  divorced, paying — in the 1990s — $500 a month health insurance as a freelancer. There was very little money left over after paying all the bills.



I certainly had no need for this lovely early 19th. century tea set. But it gives me such pleasure to use.


Now we do have extras: cloth napkins and tablecloths, rolls of toilet paper, candles, rubber gloves, multiple computers. Summer and winter clothing.

We own sports equipment for bourgeois pursuits like skiing and golf.

I feel alternately guilty and weird for having more when so many have less,  but I admit it also comforts me.

When you’ve run in survival mode for years, extra is luxury.

6 thoughts on “Having extra means feeling rich

  1. LOVE your teacup. It’s the only one I can think of that might be more expensive than mine. I feel the same pleasure drinking from it that you do drinking from yours. It makes me feel like I caught up to some of that happiness we’re all pursuing. I’ve owned some truly world class guitars in my life, but had to sell them when times were tough. C’est la vie. I just got a new-to-me guitar, similar to one I had to sell but only about 1/10 the price. It’s beautiful, so I can’t keep my hands off of it (An extremely important feature), it’s expertly set up so it’s a joy to play and, in about a hundred bucks, I’ll be getting it a humbucker transplant which will give it a voice as brilliant as anyone’s, even my monster axes from back in the day.
    Cathy and I have been in and out of survival mode lots of times and you are right to say extra is luxury. Being able to get what you want without worrying about what you have to give up is a damn fine feeling. To that I say “Give us this day” because bad times pass and good ones do too. I’m glad you are enjoying your simple pleasures as much as I am.
    I bought an old Bible at the OXFAM thrift shop in Dunoon back when I was a kid. It spent some time in France during the great war and was full of officers’ calling cards and other memorabilia, but the thing that ties it into this thought is the inscription from the young man’s mother. Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember thy creator in the days of thy youth, when the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say I have had no pleasure in them” We were all younger yesterday. Good post, thanks

    1. Thanks…

      The day that things become banal and “normal” is a day I have forgotten to remember how tough it was….and pray it won’t be again.

      Have never been homeless or starving, and thank God for that, but learned very young the value of a $$$$ and what it can buy, and should.

      Jose has to force me into spending $$$ on essential-for-our-work new tech (phone, computer, air conditioners) as I am so damn cheap and always fearful I won’t be able to replace that expenditure with future earnings.

      Luckily, that has rarely proven true.

  2. I share Jose’s problem when it comes to Cathy spending money on herself. “Get the good one, baby” is my mantra. Cathy bought my outrageously expensive teacup from Dunoon Pottery’s Saltire collection, produced in honor of the Scottish independence movement of a few years back. I saw it in a shop in Williamsburg, VA for $43 and NO EFFIN’ WAY was I paying that. I don’t know what Cathy paid for it but I’m sure she thinks it was a bargain because, five years and thousands of cups of PG Tips later, just holding it and thinking that she thought I was worthy of a gift like that puts a smile on my face. If I woke up in a refrigerator box tomorrow morning I would still be the luckiest guy around.

  3. I can so identify with this. and it is good to reflect from time to time, thinking about the things we keep near to us. some little luxuries mean so much to us, and some things have no bearing either way. it’s the time and place and situation when they came into our lives that make all the difference, and the meanings to us so personal and powerful.

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