A few weekends ago, Eric and Asher stopped at CVS for a prescription, and Eric bought him a little hot wheels car. Of course Benjamin was jealous, and the next day, Eric took Benjamin to buy a toy car. When Benjamin got home, Asher was so excited.
"What kind of car you get, Benjamin?"
"I got a police car like you, Asher!"
"Let me see, Benjamin!"
Benjamin showed Asher the car, and Asher instantly lost it.
"I want Benjamin's car! I don't like my car!" and threw it down on the floor. He was absolutely hysterical, because he had decided that Benjamin's car was nicer than his.
After calming him down a little, we had a talk about wanting other people's things. I explained that it would happen a lot, that someone we know will have something nicer or better than what we have. That it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the things we have. I told Asher if he wanted a new, better police car, that he would have to earn it- by using the potty.
Well, Asher has not suddenly started using the potty, and he managed to move on and hasn't tried to steal Benjamin's car too many times. But the incident, and the envy, has made me think of my grandmother. I've been thinking of my grandparents a lot anyway, just because we are at my parents' house, and so many of their things are here.
About my grandmother and envy- she was the least envious person I knew. Not only did she not want or envy, but she was completely satisfied with the things she had. As my cousin noted in his eulogy, she believed everything she had was the best. She had the best family (husband, children, grandchildren...), the best houses, the best friends, even the best furniture. You could even say she was delusional about how wonderful her things were- she once had their house in Cambridge appraised by a realtor, and decided their estimate was completely wrong because SHE thought the house was worth much more (since it was the best house on the street, of course!).
But underneath this was a deep satisfaction with the things she had, and an ability to choose things that reflected her taste so well that she never tired of them. My grandmother always picked things she loved, and she loved them forever. Like she loved my grandfather. In their bedroom in their house in Cambridge, she papered the walls with blue toile wallpaper in 1964. She never re-papered them, and then, when she and my grandfather moved into an apartment in 2009 and she had the opportunity to decorate a new bedroom, she chose blue toile yet again.
My grandparents certainly had the money to afford almost anything that they wanted. The things that most others pine for as status symbols were unimportant to them. They drove Buicks, and they drove them until the cars died. They didn't wear fancy clothes or shoes, but what they bought was good quality, and they wore what they had until it fell apart.
She knew who she was and what she liked, and she was sticking to it. Did her pleasure with the things she had, versus an envy of the things others had, come from her confidence in herself? How much is our envy of others about feeling that we are inferior, and that if we only had what someone else has, we would be "good enough"? Some of the things my grandmother loved became laughable to the rest of the family (the pink carpets in her Paris apartment), but that didn't change how she felt about them.
When I gave Charlotte her Hebrew name, Sarah, after my grandmother, it was in the hopes that Charlotte would carry on some of my grandmother's characteristics. But this is a characteristic that I hope all my children will have- a true and lasting satisfaction with the things you have. Not just that, but a love of the things you have, and a value for them, and an understanding that because those things are yours, they are the best. And for them to know themselves well enough to choose the things that make them happy in the present, and will make them happy in the future.