I grew up in a house with cold running water in the kitchen sometimes and an outdoor toilet always. Anywhere I’ve lived since has been a mansion in comparison.
So, it was kind of hard for me to have much empathy for a couple featured in the Sunday paper who lamented they had spent years of looking before finally finding the lake home of their dreams.
They were elated their find was “as homey as any house lived in year-round,” so I assume it was just a summer or vacation retreat, and not their principal residence. That makes it even more difficult for me to identify with the owners, though I’m sure they’re nice folks.
I’m fortunate to have just one decent house we and the mortgage company own, let alone two.
No point in me reading up on how long they searched to find just the right house, what they went through to get it or how much they love it. I don’t begrudge them their happiness. It’s just their reality is not the same as mine. I can’t relate.
I did a double-take when the store clerk told me the old two-bit Sunday paper was $3. Most expensive crossword puzzle I ever bought.
I’m just not in the lake house class — never was, never will be. I’ve never had anything I didn’t have to work for, and I’ve never had work that would buy me a lake house. I did once mow the lot around one, though.
My place in life, I learned early on, was to work for folks who own lake houses, not be one of ‘em.
I don’t know if my former bosses had lake houses or not, but I do know they wrote me checks for services rendered, and I still cashed them. I pushed a lawn mower and shovel when I was 19. I’ve pushed everything from an ink pen to an 800-pound paper roll since, but I’ve yet to push the remote on a lake house garage door.
It may seem odd in this country where anyone can grow up to be president or get rich building the proverbial “better mousetrap” that I resign myself to a particular social or economic strata. I call it realistic.
I was raised to respect God, President Harry Truman, the flag, Jersey bulls, the New York Yankees, anyone older than me (especially my parents), truth, honesty and the worth of honest toil. Money was never on the list, but any dollar gained without sweat and labor was considered ill-gotten and soiled.
Lest you think any of this upsets me, I assure you, it doesn’t. I’ve been fortunate most of my life to work at things I enjoy. From cooking steaks to writing about the fortunes and misfortunes of my friends and neighbors, I’ve had the privilege of doing something of value for others. It’s made me a living and a wealth of friends worth more than hundreds of lake houses.
I’m not just rationalizing.
I wasn’t raised to value money or property. A little more emphasis on both probably would have been a good thing, but my folks didn’t know much of either.
We didn’t have a lake house when I was a boy, but we did have entire rivers with favorite fishin’ holes we shared — and they didn’t cost us a dime in rent or utilities.
Now, I don’t mean to malign the folks in Sunday’s paper. I imagine they earned that house through honest sweat. I’m just not the lake house type.
I might be, if I had the money … Nah. I’d rather have a farm.
Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Contact him at email@example.com. A version of this column previously published in the Buffalo Reflex. ©️ James E. Hamilton 2019.