PunditGirl was reading the Meet Kit book from The American Girl Doll Series, recently. For the American Girl uninitiated, Kit is the Great Depression-era girl. (PunditGirl already has plowed through the Colonial girl Felicity series)!
After PunditGirl read about Kit’s dad losing his job, Kit’s brother having to give up college and the family having to take in boarders to make ends meet, she was obsessively worried.
“Is that real? What if that happens to us?”
Her furrowed brow would have rivaled that of George Bush when reporters pound him with questions about the Iraq War. It took days to convince her not to fret about chipping in the $13 in her Hello Kitty wallet for the grocery budget.
Just those few weeks ago, I assured her that story was from a long time ago and that she didn’t need to worry. Mommy and Daddy work and have saved money for a long time, I explained, so that we would have what we needed.
I try to be mindful about how I answer these big life questions, because you never know what could happen and I didn’t want her to ever think I had lied to her. But now with the economy on the verge, I feel like the liar I was trying not to become.
Our family is in way better financial shape than many and I am thankful for that. But when my mom complains about how expensive it is for her to buy bread, I know it’s bad. When CNN runs a story about how pizza places are losing money because of the skyrocketing cost of flour, there’s a serious problem. Pizza and bread are what you eat when money already is tight — at least that’s what I lived on when I was a poor law student.
OK, sometimes I sprang for mac & cheese, too, if I was feeling really flush.
Conceptually, we can agree that the failure of a major brokerage firm like Bear Stearns can only be bad for the economy. There can hardly be disagreement, unless you’re Dick Cheney, that $110 for a barrel of oil and $4 for a gallon of gas are flashing red signs of hardship to come.
But when my parents grumble about whether they can afford bread, how far are we to the food coupons and meat rationing of the 1930s?
My family isn’t going to starve and we have a decent fixed-rate mortgage. My parents’ house was paid for a long time ago and since they’re farmers, they grow a lot of their own food. But how long will their used Volvo wagon hold up? And what about caring for them as they get older? My parents are pretty spry for their age, but someday they won’t be.
I don’t like the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. And my brow is getting more furrowed than PunditGirl’s.