Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Buying Good Memories

      I met that client in September of 2006 and his house closed in October.  I called in two months later to see if he liked his new house. He said he did not know, he had not moved in yet. I found this very odd. This man was very peculiar. It was the same follow up I had given all my clients. I would check up on them every few months to make sure all was still well. There was a terrible snow storm that winter and power went out all over our region. I lived close to a transfer station and so my electricity was on in a matter of hours. I called all my clients to see who might want my generator. I phoned this crazy client of mine and offered up instant power. He demurred  and I thought nothing more about him for a fair amount of time. I had started dating. Every now and again, when I was feeling brave. Never anything too serious really, I was not in any hurry. I had been married almost all of my adult life, I had no idea how to proceed on my own, but I liked it. That feeling of freedom. It was a heady time. I was making great money and my family was well taken care of. Every time I sold a house, I would take my children shopping. I was making up for lost time. Buying good memories to erase all the bad. There were dinners out and  lots of ordering in. We were so happy at times, usually when we were shopping or going to restaurants, Joy was disbursed in increments of cash. But it would wear off... those feelings of excitement. There was a huge addictive quality to it. Taking piles of clothes and shoes, towels and books up to registers and having the confidence to know I had the money for it all. It was a power I had never known and I craved it. I set some away. I always saved some. I never trusted it. I was certain it was too good to be true.

   My mother still called and came by on rare occasions. Mostly, she would say she was somewhere and would I like to go to lunch. Now, ever since I moved out of her house my mother would make this call. Every once in a while she would suggest we met. I always went. I could not say exactly why. I was still looking for that loving, kind mother to be disguised as my own. But that never happened. She never changed into that thing that I needed. I would always pay. It was like a ground rule or something.  When times were tough, I would have to search around for change or write a bad check for these moments of hope. It was like an investment which never paid off. And yet I still forked over the money. Thinking that time would be different. She was going to say, that she loved me, that I was special. That she was proud of me. And that she was sorry. That was my list more or less and it still goes unfulfilled. The one thing that did change as time passed is the restaurants. They  got better, more expensive. She seemed to know somehow, when the tide had risen to lift my ship and she took advantage of it. Tying her dinghy to me. She wanted a nice lunch. Somewhere she had never been. The tab went up and my feelings stayed down. But I never complained. I was glad to share these things with her. She did not have a lot. She was always broke. I felt sorry for her. I did. To have more than your parent is a hard thing. No matter how good or bad a parent they were you still want them to have enough. So maybe part of it was guilt. I could not say. I was giving her something, looking for that return, that yield that never came. I bought her a computer. A nice one, expensive. And of course then she needed a printer and paper and ink. I loaded it all up and took it to her. My offerings. I am sure she said thank you. I do not remember it, but it must have happened. That was what people said, when you gave them such things wasn't it? She would tell me what she wanted, needed and let it lay there between us. She knew I could afford it. Whatever it was that time. And she was right. It made me feel better, to give her those things. But it would always be followed with the disappointment of her still being, well her. Nothing I gave her, bought her, changed her.

    It took me years, a lot of them, to figure that out. I had guilt about money. It was so odd, but I did. I would take the names of needy children off of the charity tree every Christmas. I would buy well over the allotted amount and I put gift cards and money in the pockets of coats and jeans. A special secret. A surprise. A little hope to get someone through. I wanted everyone to have what I had. To not have to struggle. To never be hungry or ashamed of their clothes. I could relate. I knew those feelings and I did not want anyone else to suffer. I was not comfortable with money. I felt unworthy and what I did not save went right out of my bank account as soon as I got it. I felt anxious when my wallet was empty, which kept me working hard. I felt confident when I had cash, but also something more that I can not name. It was as if it was not mine. That I had to get rid of it as fast as I could. I kept myself broke. On a higher scale, no doubt. I drove a Mercedes. I had all the labels that said you had made it. My shoes had red soles. But I could make no peace with these things. I felt like a fraud. It was a whirl wind of feelings and emotions all tied up in green and silver.

   The crazy client called me again. He wanted to discuss his house. The one he had asked me to walk through. The one he told me he would let me list. I did not want to take that man's calls. But I did and I went. I had the need for more things. Pretty things. Things that said I had made it, that I fit in. We met for lunch. He talked about his job for the longest time. I pretended to listen. Finally, we got down to business. He did not like his agent. The house had not sold. What did I think should be done. I believed it was a test. Putting this man in my path was someone's incredible joke. I was patient. I kept my cool. I went over it all again. He paid for lunch and asked me to come look at the house again. I said that I would and I did. He had not listened to me this client of mine. He had redone the bathrooms, which was important. But the kitchen still had pink tile through out. The counters were pink, not bepto bismal pink, rather a flamingo pink. Tiny little square tiles on the floors, the counters, the back splashes. The appliances were still circa 1980. I took a deep breath and explained it all again. He balked. I set down at the computer with him and showed him the comps. He finally relented. I went home and all the way there on that long drive, I cussed at that man. I should have realized he was different. This odd man that tried my nerves. But I was not looking where I was going and when I tripped over his wit and fell for his smile, I was done. He had my attention. This crazy man who loved to talk and bought my lunch. It was a change to be sure.


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