Being once again financially secure, with a job that will take less out of my paycheck for things like health insurance, and having a husband who’s also financially secure with his upcoming Big Project, I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. Okay, I thought about it even more when I didn’t know where it would be coming from after my unemployment insurance ran out. Bu t now, my thoughts are turning to the strange notion of, as we used to call it in the ’90s back before Bush & co. ran the economy (and just about everything else) into the toilet, a budget surplus.
I was raised by two practical, fairly frugal people. We had our family holidays in upstate New York, we even took a trip once to Israel and Romania to see relatives, but for the most part we went to the shore or camp or just hung around the neighborhood when school let out. My parents were year-round wage earners, and encouraged the same sensibilities in me and my brothers. My mom was a school nurse for nine months out of the year and the de facto day camp nurse at Ashbrook Swim Club in the summers, where my brothers and I became counselors.
My first real paycheck at age 14 or so was from Ashbrook; I dimly remember getting a Social Security number so I could be paid. (Nowadays you’re assumed them at birth, aren’t you?) Because both Mom and Dad worked in an era when many families could afford to live on only one salary, I was never exposed to "mommy track" thinking, where I’d go to college to get my "M.R.S. degree." It was always assumed that, like my brothers, I’d go to university to acquire skills so I’d be able to support myself upon graduation. My brothers became accountants, like Dad. I was, um, er… well, I was an English major.
But after temping for about a year and a half I discovered, contrary to previous fears, that I was in no danger of losing my unique personality to become a cog in a faceless machine and that, in fact, I rather liked being a secretary. So that became my chosen profession. Yes yes, stereotypical female career, pink collar ghetto and all that — but hey, I enjoyed typing. I’d made pin money senior year of high school by running a buck-a-page typing service, back in the days before personal computers (and when dollar bills meant a bit more, as it was also in the days before plentiful ATMs). I figured I did about 40wpm in those days on a newfangled electric typewriter; later in my career that would jump to 80wpm on a Selectric and early PCs, and nowadays I regularly break 100. Hey, it’s my way of playing keyboard, since I never did have the reach to tackle the piano the way my grandmother and Dad’s cousins could. But I digress.