Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Picket Fences & Pool Houses

I love valet parking.

The little luxury saves me when I'm running late, when the weather's bad and when I'm wearing my F Me Pumps. Valet is a reasonable expense downtown depending on the circumstance.

Can you imagine offering valet parking at your home?

When the people of Indian Hill have a party - whether it be a pot luck or a more glamorous soiree - they have valet parking. Valet parking on the Fourth of July. Valet parking for charity fundraisers. Valet parking for political shindigs and valet parking for Christmas parties. These fine people dress to the nines and fling open the doors to their multi-million dollar mansions, inviting friends, co-workers and other associates to check out the pool house and their bowling alley.

So goes the luxe life in one of the nation's most affluent communities.

I have some personal and social connections that allow me to enjoy - for just a brief, flickering moment - how the other half (more like one percent) lives. I am always polite, gracious and awestruck, starting with the moment I pull my car up to the circular driveway.

My childhood years were spent in a more modest East Side Cincinnati suburb, but during my high school days I did get to enjoy the rarefied air of a privileged community in Connecticut. We were a far cry from the kids who lived on the beach, but my family was comfortable and I am grateful for all I was given as a kid (I'll admit it took me a while to appreciate the way I was raised).

The sad thing is, I don't know if I'll ever live that well again.

My generation - the Gen Xers - is likely the first group of people to not surpass the standard of living our parents exposed us to when we were kids.

That unfortunate possibility is not getting any help from our nation's tenuous economy and the rapidly dwindling lock box that was the Social Security system.

Our grandparents worked hard and pinched pennies to send our moms and dads to college, and our parents took advantage of that gift to get ahead in the business world. They, in turn, paid for our trips to summer camp, our soccer uniforms and our violin lessons.

Our parents gave us everything. What will we be able to give our own children? The current situation of the nation's economy makes me wonder whether we'll ever come close to the same standard of living.

I don't need to give my kids a pool house or a home with a cavernous glass solarium. I am okay with living without a circular driveway and a wine cellar.

What I do want, though, is a cozy home in a quaint neighborhood. Maybe a picket fence and a Volvo in the garage.

And we can forgo the valet parking.

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