Remember being 7 years old? Remember looking forward to your birthday because you knew that you'd be getting presents? The toys, the games, and that long awaited Pokemon Yellow Version. That was all fun and good, but then there were the envelopes. You knew which relatives gave cash, and you expected an envelope from them every year. Some would tell you to save it and some would tell you to blow it on your favorite toy. Some would give it with a card in a nice Hallmark envelope, some in a plain white envelope, or in the case of my dear grandmother: an unused ConEdison bill payment envelope.
There were two big cash seasons every year when I was young: July and December. July was when I finished school and got ready to go upstate to my families summer house on White Lake. It was, without a doubt, the most exciting time of the year for me. In fact, it still is. The first day by the lake every summer is always the day when every stress and worry I have in my life completely melts away. Adding to the excitement was the fact that I would always receive an envelope from my parents. This envelope contained just enough money for me to buy an ice cream a day. It was counted out to the dollar to make sure I wouldn't spend more then was allowed. Of course I would always convince my grandmother to throw in a few extra dollars so I could get the more expensive ice cream, or some candy. When we got upstate on the first day of the summer my grandma would help me unpack my clothes. Once everything was unpacked I would take my cherished envelope and put it under the newspaper which lined my sock drawer. All $120 were safe when they were under that newspaper. Every day at 3:30, after I had eaten lunch, Bob the ice cream man would drive into our colony and ring his bells. No matter where we were, or what we were doing, each and every kid in our colony would drop everything, race to their houses, grab a dollar from the envelope under the protective newspaper and hop on their bikes to race to the truck. Bob knew us all by name, he loved us. Why wouldn't he? We were putting his kids through college. Sometimes he would even let us take rides in the truck and help him sell ice cream at a few colonies. They were good times and the $120 seemed to last forever. Fast forward to Summer '07 where I blew close to $3000 on the summer. Its kind of like a post-puberty inflation.
December was also a big month for me. It was like hitting the lottery one month a year, every year. Not only are all the major cash holidays in December but it is also my birthday. The month started with dollar signs glowing in my eyes every year to this day. The envelopes would come piling in, and after buying that one special game I wanted that year I would take the rest and stuff it into the nicest envelope I had. I felt like hot fucking shit. I had cash. It was mine, and I couldn't wait to brag to my friends about how rich I was. Three hundred fucking dollars. Do you have any idea what I could get for $300? How much ice cream, how much candy, or how many Pokemon cards that could buy. Do you have any idea? I knew I was loaded, and it felt good. Thats right kids, $300 felt good. Today, it barely covers a weekend.
Our money seems to depreciate as we mature. Add that to the fact that my family has essentially multiplied their net worth 20 times over in the past 15 years and that things don't cost what they used to, and what you have are memories of when you could live a year on the cost of a nice dinner today. Almost every time I get paid, for doing next to nothing, I remember the story my father once told me of my first bike. We had just come to America and my parents had yet to find steady jobs. Whatever money we did have was left with the family that stayed in Ukraine. It was time to build a new fortune. But first, I wanted a bike. I was six, why would I care about my parents barely making rent and paying for food. I just wanted a bike. So my dad somehow got a one day gig at a newly built house cleaning up garbage. My father, a respected Ukrainian musician, spent the entire day working his ass off picking up garbage at some rich Russian's new 3 bedroom. He came home that night with $100. I've said before that my dad would spend his last pennies on something that would make me happy. This time was no different. After busting his ass all day and feeling absolutely humiliated by the work he was doing he took those $100 and we went to Toys-R-Us. I got my new bike and knew nothing of the work that was put into getting it. Ten years later me and my dad would be fishing upstate and he would tell me the story of that shiny black and red bike.
When I pick up my paycheck these days and realize I make infinitely more then my dad did that day and put in only 1/7th of the time and 1/100th of the work, I'm grateful. I've always been grateful. I see the housekeeper that comes to make my room shine and remember my dad cleaning the house of somebody who was, without a doubt, no richer then my family is today.
In case it didn't register the first 2 times, let me tell you again: I spend more on a Friday night today then I would in a year 10 years ago. 10 years from now I expect to spend more for brunch then I do today on a Friday night or then I did in a year 10 years ago. I'd say that sums up a whole lot of things in life.
Sweet dreams kids.