A blog I blurk at (there are many of those…I’m a self-admitted terrible commenter) discussed the staircase that stands between childhood and adulthood. It’s a post that I think everyone will identify with, in one capacity or another. I certainly did.
I got to reflecting on my childhood, and realized that it was marked by a total lack of awareness of wealth. While there was a class distinction (they were almost all of them from far wealthier homes), the perception of class identity never factored in to who would befriend me and who would not. My house was not an upstairs-downstairs home, but every home that had a weekend potluck that we were invited to was definitely not like mine. The other kids’ houses were large, sprawling, with gorgeous lawns. My house was an “ice cream on Eid only” home, because my parents were definitely working class. It never occurred to me that this was not the norm in our circle of friends, and I don’t think that it occurred to my friends either. We made friendships solely based on whether or not we could stand each others’ company.
Along the way, something changed. Where I was never before aware of the modesty of my own home, I suddenly realized the difference between a million dollar home and a rented middle class home (or apartment). At first, it was a curious novelty: oh my God, a house can cost that much?! And then, it was oddly ubiquituous: hmmmm, so her home, and her home, and hers too…they all cost that much? And then, it was perplexing: why are we living in a rented home? When will we own even a simple home? While I was having that awakening, perhaps my friends from wealthier homes were going through a similar realization. Perhaps they went from “You can rent a home and move when you don’t like it?” to “How come her home doesn’t have a curio cabinet with all these crystal decorations, or artwork on the walls?” to “God, I hope we never have to live like that!” or maybe even, “It might be nice to live so simply.”
And then, very suddenly, we did own a home alhamdulillah…we do…and everything changed. People who were used to seeing us a certain way were surprised (some in a good way, others not so much) to see us “move up” in this world. Some comfortably expressed the ideas like “have nots will always be have nots” and “Allah blesses us with wealth because He Knows we can take care of it.” Immediately after voicing such sentiments, a look of barely concealed horror would appear on their faces, along with the realization that we had once been such have nots. In that instant, I realized why my mother had always been incredibly uncomfortable around certain women. I also realized that while most children become friends because their parents are friends, the opposite was true in my house: My mom was “friends” with certain women only because I was friends with their children. The lengths to which my mom went to make sure I was never out of place…she dressed me like a princess, and fed my friends like princesses too. It’s the kind of mother I could only dream of being.
Sometimes, I wish we would not be able to see what another person has: I don’t want to know if your home is modest or posh; if your car is second-hand or an antique or the latest off the chopping block; if your clothes are name-brand, homemade, or Wal-Mart; if you wear gold or gold-plated; et cetera ad nauseam. Life was so much simpler when a staircase really was just a staircase. Wasn’t it?