Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lament of a Materialist

I find myself up on my roof, bent over, nail gun in hand. My knees are sore, my calves are accustomed to a fire that they have rarely experienced before, and my back is about to pack its bags and leave me forever. It’s Saturday and I am cutting the last shingles I will have to cut before my project is complete.
I have put 40 hours of work into the roof myself, and about 40 more in total have been volunteered by friends and family; many coming from my mom despite the fact that she is 58 and a complainer. She’s a real trooper.

But I am by myself today.

I remember all the projects I worked on as a child. Particularly the snowfort that Jake, Dan, and I built out of a pile of snow left at the end of the drive by a snowplow. It had two satellite stations connected to a central atrium – the command center – by tunnel. Each station had a missile armory, equipped with hundreds of snowballs crafted with bits of ice and sometimes rocks. We spent days building this fort, not because we had to, but because we loved it. Hours in the icy cold digging, packing, smoothing, perfecting. We never had anyone challenge our fort in a snowball fight, but that wasn’t because all of us were a part of it and there was no one left to challenge. No, it was because it was impenetrable, and no fool would dare attack.

In the summer we had 4 forts around town that we had built. One at my house that my dad helped erect, it stood eight feet off the ground and had a rope ladder and a climbing rope to enter. One at Tyce’s house. One in Jake’s backyard that we built ourselves, and another in the apple tree across the street that his uncle helped build.

We worked in the sandbox at Jake’s house for hours, days, and even weeks. We were the creators of towns, cities, and military bases. We were the gods of the G.I. Joes, Ninja Turtles, and Hot Wheels that inhabited our earths.

Tyce and I worked for weeks one fall to create the perfect dogsled for Vern – my Samoyed/Siberian Husky crossbreed – to pull. We drilled through skis we picked up at DI, fastened them to crossbars upon which we screwed on a seat. Behind the seat we put a standing area from where a person could push to help Vern get started, and then ride along. By the time we were done building it weighed far too much for Vern to possibly pull (so we just used a plastic sled from Wal-Mart, and he pulled us for hours) but it didn’t matter, it wasn’t about the end result. We built because we loved to work and create, not because we had to.

Now I work because I have to, and I do it alone unless one of my friends can eek out the spare time from his work, family, and own projects.

I sit behind a computer for most of the 45-50 hours I work every week. I don’t enjoy most of it, and I don’t feel much satisfaction. When the day is over I go home and have no energy to do any of the things I love. Mountain biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, these are things that will wait until the weekend. If there are any projects around the house, any cars that need to be fixed, any leaks that need to be repaired – it is drudgery, and I only look forward to sitting on the couch and watching Chuck and Arrested Development until 11 o’clock rolls around and I can roll into bed.

In four months my son will be born. My first child. I so look forward to teaching him how to sled and ski and snowboard. Teaching him how to kick a soccer ball and throw a football. I can’t wait to teach him how to become a man. I have a clear mental picture of all the fun we will have together. But I know that in reality I will come home from work at 4:30, sit on the couch, watch Mad Men, and hate the fact that I have no energy left to enjoy the life I’ve created.

I just bought a new 50” Plasma TV. It looks gorgeous. It will go great on the wall in our house that has five bedrooms, a living room, and a family room. On the other side of the wall will be parked our two cars and a number of toys. We will watch it while we eat our KFC on our leather couches. I look at these things and I remember why I do it all. I sacrifice it all for them.

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