“We have to go now,” our host, Professor Alexander, calls up the broad, Victorian staircase of his home. I am hastily collecting the last of our belongings from the guestroom to finish packing our car.
The Alexanders, myself, my husband and infant child are all leaving to meet the Alexanders’ adult son and daughter-in-law for a quick breakfast. The Alexanders’ son and his wife are new hires at a local secondary school, after having spent eight years studying and working toward their undergraduate degrees. They need to be to work on time.
With the car fully repacked from our overnight stay, we pull out of our hosts’ driveway to follow their vehicle to the pancake house two miles from their home. We are planning to depart New York state from the restaurant to spend another eight-hour day driving cross-country.
Upon entering the restaurant, apologies are made for our tardiness at the same time that hasty introductions go around. A small amount of light banter starts the conversational ball moving about the large table. From this, we learn that the Alexanders’ son and daughter-in-law have recently returned from a three-day weekend in Montreal, having travelled to Canada to spend time with three other couples—old college friends from their early undergraduate-school days. Most of the members from among the other couples went on to complete some type of professional schooling, becoming doctors or lawyers.
Before the conversation can continue, Professor Alexander breaks in abruptly, “You can’t keep spending money like this. You are on a very different budget than these people. Three days in a hotel, a professional sporting event and how many dinners out? You can’t afford these weekends with your old friends. May I remind you that you are public-school teachers with a significant amount of student-loan debt to repay?”
The table grows momentarily quiet, then Mrs. Alexander picks up the conversational ball with a more conventional breakfast topic. I retreat into the realm of my own thoughts to consider Professor Alexander’s paternal plea for fiscal prudence. It is one of those instances where an entire group of relevant questions surfaces at once. I understand Professor Alexander’s genuine economic concerns for his son and daughter-in-law.
Professor Alexander is right, where budgeting is concerned. Yet, his impassioned plea for fiscal prudence has ripped a hole in my heart.
What happened to enjoying each other’s company over a shared, potluck dinner at a person’s home? Must we relinquish cherished friendships when we can no longer afford the same recreational adventures?
Hanging back from the general conversation, I recall my grandmother’s stories about how she and my grandfather made things work while going through the Depression as a young couple–by taking turns with other young couples on the issue of hosting dinners and taking turns with covering fuel or travel expenses. What these stories from my grandmother taught me is that where the heart is concerned, there are always solutions.