I was six or seven or eight. I had just started Grade One or Two; who remembers clearly what happened fifty years ago. I didn’t have glasses yet but they would come very soon! I was poor but I didn’t know I was poor (yet). Yes, my best friend had more stuff then I did but I didn’t covet her stuff. I had enough stuff even though most of it was second hand. Most importantly, I had unlimited access to books via my local library.
This was the perfect life. What else could I possibly dream of wanting?
My best friend was just like me. Her birthday was in May, mine was in April. She lived just down the alley from me. She had no father either. Her father had died, mine had left. That put her a little higher up in the social structure of the town. However, she was first generation Chinese-Canadian so that put her closer to being my equal than my classmates with lots of money and two parents. Her mother worked. My mother worked. Nobody else’s mother worked. We had a lot of unsupervised time and a lot of responsibility. We had to not cause trouble and be perfect.
I may have been poor but my mother saw that I never went hungry. Best of all was the all I could eat raspberry patch at the bottom of our garden. I still can’t get enough of raspberries, summer or winter.
I could go exploring at the local graveyards or go sit and daydream in the gazebo at the forest just inside of the town limits.
When I was tired of eating raspberries and running around unsupervised outside I could grab a book and read under the bed which was my favourite reading spot.
This was me in the 1960s.
Life was perfect!
That’s when they moved in. Every few years, my small town got a new policeman. He moved in with his family to the police station across the street from us. The police station was a single story red brick structure attached to a two story brick house. We hadn’t really paid attention to who lived there before because they didn’t have any children our age.
They did now. Three little girls (Lynn, Leah, & Laura) who were the same age as my sisters and me orbited into our lives and my best friend and I morphed into a threesome as Laura joined our group.
And now there were three little girls who were inseparable. We camped out in the bushes and trees across from the police station to gorge ourselves on candy and trade secrets. Laura was an outcast too because her dad’s constant moving made it hard for her to fit in.
We thought she had the coolest dad, we two who had no dads at all. He locked us in the jail cell one hot summer’s day (it was much cooler in there) and we played with our dolls and eavesdropped on muted adult conversations.
You would think that life would have continued to be perfect.
But…Laura had something I suddenly wanted.
Wanted so badly.
Laura had, what seemed to me, hundreds of troll dolls, clothes, and accessories like this troll castle.
I coveted it. I coveted it all!
Oh, if only they were mine. I would make them dishes and feed them colourful mini marshmallows just like I did with my Barbie.
But it was not to be. My mother didn’t waste money on fads. I didn’t get my own troll doll (that’s s/he above) until I was in my forties. S/he has place of honour in my kitchen with the bottles and the lucky frogs.
It’s still a fine line. How to decide what is a need and what is a want.
I no longer covet troll dolls but oh, some days, it seems I covet so much else.
I try to remember I have a perfect life. I need so little. I don’t want many things.
What I want is so much more intangible and part of it is wanting what I use to have – simple needs and simple wants and a library next door to feed my insatiable habit for the written word.
That is enough.
That is perfection!