Jason put on a T-shirt and combed his hair in front of his bedroom mirror. He then grabbed his keys, wallet, and change and left his room for the kitchen. The morning sun shone through the windows and the remains of breakfast were on the kitchen counter. Jason’s mother was sitting at the table reading the newspaper.
“You’re up early for a weekend,” mother observed.
“Can’t sleep in too late,” Jason replied. “Got to go to Christine’s nephew’s little league game.” He picked up a pancake from a plate on the counter and took a bite. “Where’s dad?”
“He took David to the flea market,” mother said. “He’s looking for a record player.”
“What’s he doing buying other people’s junk?” Jason asked.
“He calls them bargains.”
“Didn’t anyone tell him they stopped making vinyl?”
“You know your father,” mother said, “thinks everything made these days is crap.”
“I don’t know about that,” Jason said as he finished eating. He opened the refrigerator and got out a pitcher of orange juice. “Technology isn’t all bad, computers are just about everywhere now, can’t imagine life without them anymore. Plus you got V.C.R.’s, cordless phones, fax machines, and C.D.’s are a definite improvement on L.P.’s. No scratches or warping, and they take up less space,” Jason said as he poured himself a glass of orange juice.
Mother looked up from the newspaper, “Oh sure, they’re an improvement, but you know, everything moves a little too fast now. You buy a stereo or a computer or anything electronic, and before you know it, it goes obsolete and you have to buy a new one.”
“Well, that’s progress,” Jason said. “Out with the old, in with the new and improved.”
“Yeah, and prices sure aren’t going down,” mother observed.
“But at least wages are higher than they used to be. I remember Dad saying how he used to get paid just a buck an hour when he started working.”
“More money to buy more stuff, and everyone has to buy the newest and latest thing or fad just to keep up with the Joneses. All these new things are supposed to make life simpler, but I don’t know.”
“But that’s what makes everything go,” Jason pointed out. “Supply and demand, that’s what keeps people working.”
“It feels like we’re being supplied with things we’re not demanding.”
Jason thought for a moment. “People like to buy things,” he shrugged.
“Shopping, the latest drug,” mother declared. “Whatever happened to just being happy for what you have? You know, I was at least ten when we got our first T.V., before that people actually talked to each other instead of vegging in front of the tube. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to leave your home, go out, be amongst other people, and it didn’t cost a fortune. For twenty-five cents you could see a double feature, a cartoon, and a newsreel. We used to watch movies at the Burbank before they started showing skin flicks.”
“Did you also have to ride around on horseback?” Jason kidded.
“I tell you what,” mother said, “there was enough open space back then that you could ride around on a horse, now look at this place.”
Jason thought about what his mother said. “Yeah, maybe people are more materialistic these days, but you know what it is, capitalism won out over communism, so now everyone’s living it up.”
“I like to think that it was things like freedom and democracy that won.”
“Aren’t they the same thing?”
Mother laughed amusedly. “I don’t mean to sound old, but there was a time when there was more to life than just material stuff. There used to be issues, civil rights, war, protests, Watergate, cultural changes, a lot was happening, and people used to talk and argue about these things. Now all anybody seems to care about is how much they’re making and what car they’re driving. I guess you were too young to remember any of that.”
“I suppose things are kind of shallow right now,” Jason admitted as he finished his orange juice, “but I think people just want to relax and enjoy life now,” he said as he placed the empty glass in the sink and rinsed it out. “People have been stressing for too long, but I’m sure it’s just a phase. Someday we’ll go back to arguing with each other and everything will be fine.”
“We’ll see,” mother said cautiously. “So you’ll be home tonight?”
“Your sister is going to be home for dinner.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Jason recalled. “I was wondering when she was going to come and see us, school’s been out long enough.”
“She took a charter bus trip with her friends to the Grand Canyon.”
“Chartered bus? Fancy.”
“It’s called Green Turtle, or something like that. The way she described it it sounded kind of hippie-ish.”
“What is it, a Deadhead bus?”
“Just as long as there are no crazy people on board,” mother said. “I told Kathy that if she wants to travel and see the world she should do it while she’s still young.”
“Well she better stay out of trouble,” Jason said authoritatively. “When’s she going to be home?”
“She said by three or four. I’m making chicken enchiladas, she says she’s taking a break from red meat.”
“Uh oh, she’s getting weird on us.”
“I hope I’m not going to have play referee again,” mother said sharply. “I did enough of that when you two were growing up.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise,” Jason said half seriously.
“I’ve heard that before,” mother said with a laugh.
“But this time I mean it.”
“Of course you do,” mother replied incredulously. “But you know, Jason, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” she said as she folded the newspaper. “Now maybe I should have noticed this sooner, but lately I’ve been wondering if you might be feeling a little envious about Kathy going off to college because you didn’t have the same opportunity.”
“No, no, I’m not jealous.” Jason felt a change in mood as he sat at the table next to mother. “I’m happy for Kathy, and I’m very proud of her. She worked for it, she deserves it, and we all know she’s the brains of the family.”
“Yes, she is quite clever,” mother remarked. “It’s just that I see you’ve been going to junior college and trying to get ahead. And looking back, I realized that your father and I never pushed you toward college, and I think we denied you.”
“You didn’t deny me anything,” Jason reassured.
“Well, neither of us went to college, and we did all right, so I guess we never thought about it when you were growing up. You were a happy kid.”
“Yeah I was.”
“Then when Kathy started going to school, all her teachers raved about her, how she was a good student and college material, and so it went. It didn’t occur to me until lately that she got the support and some of the breaks that you didn’t get, and that wasn’t fair to you.”
“Mom, I wasn’t into school the way Kathy was, so nobody pushed me in that direction. I didn’t even think about college until I was done with high school. It seemed like everyone else was going to college, or at least De Anza, West Valley or City. I just didn’t want to fall behind.”
“That seems to be the trend. When I was young, lots of people dropped out of high school so they could work. Now it’s a stigma not to have a diploma.”
“Growing up I was just looking to have fun, I never really looked ahead. Now everyone says these days you need a degree or you won’t get ahead.”
“Which I suppose means that the next generation are all going to need master’s degrees,” mother concluded. “And who knows what tuition will cost then.”
“Too much,” Jason responded. He then leaned closer to mother and put his arm around her. “But you know what, I had a whole lot of fun growing up, a ton of great memories, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.”
“Yes, you were quite the bundle of energy,” mother reminisced as she put her hand on Jason’s and held it for a moment. They smiled at each other affectionately.
“Thanks for letting me move back in,” Jason said.
“It’s all right.”
“Didn’t know I was going to have money problems so early.”
“See? Progress,” mother reminded as she looked back at the newspaper. Jason got up to leave, looked around the kitchen for one last thing to eat, and grabbed a plum from a bowl of fruit. “So which one of Christine’s nephews is playing today, Eric?”
“Well have fun.”
“Bye, Mom.” Jason kissed mother before he left.
“Oh, could you pick up some ice on the way home?”
©2016 Robert Kirkendall