9.6.04

LIFE AFTER COLLEGE IS THE REVENGE OF THE NERDS. But you have to get there first:
Being working class -- in Massachusetts, in the 60's, anyway -- meant that it was possible to scrimp and save your way to a measure of economic safety, to imagine a future that included more than trying to survive. My mother's laserlike shopping skills were a source of rueful family humor. On double-coupon day, she could whittle $120 worth of groceries down to $60. The Mecca of college and the need to pay for it provided the justification for leaving many mundane yearnings unmet -- it was why we made popsicles instead of running after the ice cream truck; why we headed straight for the clearance racks; why the friends of shortsighted parents got to splash their way through the summer season in their aboveground pools. And when we were indulged, which was not infrequently, it was always with an eye to the future: savings went to piano lessons and summer camps and even restaurants, so we would feel comfortable in a restaurant world. ''Go explore,'' my mother would say when we went out to eat. Whenever we teased my mom about the vinyl coupon purse she carried, my normally mischievous father would chastise us: it represented hours and hours of worry and caution, tedious labor and her rightful fear for the family's vulnerability. And insofar as college was concerned, my parents' strategy of self-abnegation worked.
Is there a time to lighten up? Perhaps. (Hat tip: Apartment 11-D, who manages to put the latest celebrity "wedding" in perspective.)

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