The national standard of living generally rose along with the national GDP during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. But not all families amassed more possessions and moved to bigger houses in suburbs as income increased. My own parents remembered the deprivations of the depression, and they wanted to remain living squarely within their means. Also as my dad’s job required him to move every few years, the idea of unpacking a load of unnecessary things into a new house frequently discouraged hording.
Typically each time before we moved, I would wrap my fragile knickknacks in swathes of newspaper and place them in my dresser drawers. Either I wasn’t very good at this, or the movers were rough on dressers. Each time I would unwrap my collection of china horses in the new house there would be another one with broken legs. It was no easier repair china horses than real ones that suffered this injury. So into the trash they went. Eventually I took up collecting different printed napkins, cheaper and a lot more resilient to clumsy movers.
Half of the time the new house we moved into was larger than the last one, and half the time it was smaller. So my number of toys, items in my collections, and outfits in my wardrobe never grew very big. However, there were a few things that my parents splurged on. We ate well. In fact I never understood the lure of the inexpensive, high starch/fat comfort foods. My mom kept the refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables (I wouldn’t touch canned fruit cocktail). Also, we would eat out at least once a week, as fresh fruits and vegetables require a lot of prep time.
However, the major splurge I remember is when my parents bought us a pony. I suppose, that didn’t seem so extravagant to my mom who grew up on a farm in a time prior to tractors, when horses were a necessity. But it was something that none of my friends owned, not even the ones with their own individual bedroom, hi-fi stereo, and color TV.
Initially we kept it at a stable within walking distance so we could enjoy riding more often. There was the thrill of being on top of an animal moving in a rolling canter. But after each time, the pony had to be curried, very carefully so I didn’t spook it. The saddle, blanket and bridle had to be stored. A pony took time, effort, and responsibility. But was not like playing competitive sports. There was no winning, no improving my stats, and no other players yelling at me when I failed. One of us had to go feed the pony hay and oats, every evening. I was the one who didn’t know the difference between hay and straw when my rotation came. The horse just snorted at me when I returned, and I had to ask why he didn’t eat his food.
Perhaps the pony wasn’t a splurge after all.