It is funny where lessons in economic can be found. My daughter has discovered and I have rediscovered Beverly Cleary books–most especially those involving Ramona and Beezus. For my daughter she understands the angst of Ramona’s everyday mishaps, and for me I am transported back home to Portland, Oregon where I spent my childhood. As a girl I glided over the struggles of the Quimby’s and their continuous plight to make ends-meet. Sometimes there’s was a similar plight in my own childhood home, and so as a girl I just thought that is how things are. As an adult I recognize international economic systems, national economics, education, taxes, a person’s background and insights, as well as a plethora of little events and details determine whether a family will be able to make ends-meet. This is not the only economic lesson I have rediscovered with Ramona and her big sister Beezus. It is the recollection of shoes and my own childhood that truly made me think. In several books Ramona discusses shoes and her distaste for hand-me-downs, her acquisition of new ones, and her desire for the loveliest ones. She acquires shoes only when necessary–when they are outgrown. She visits a shoe store where a knowledgeable shoe salesman aides her and her mother in their selection. Her mother buys only when necessary and makes due with what they have–when they can. My own daughter has several pairs of shoes. Only two of them are absolutely necessary–her everyday shoes (athletic shoes) and seasonal shoes (boots or flip-flops depending). I did not visit a shoe salesman to purchase these items–I bought them off the rack. The other pairs were acquired in the same manner. The quality of her shoes are poorly made, imports from China (most likely produced by a youth not much older than my own child)–I purchased them knowing they would not last very long (the built in obsolescence is how our ever growing consumption is created). When I was a child I had a pair of leather sandals in the summer and a pair of leather oxfords or Mary Janes during colder months–these were purchased at a shoe store with a salesman. I remember the salesman measuring my foot in the metal Brannock Device (I felt special having so much attention paid to me). Then things changed–my mom began shopping at big retailers where shoes could be purchased off the rack for much less than the previous shoes I wore. Rainy days were no longer spent inside cozy shoe stores smelling the clean pungency of leather and polish–no longer was their a happy salesman faking astonishment at how much my feet had grown–how sad.
While the Quimby’s struggled often with their finances, it was not a result of squandering their money–though they did spend money on special treats they “made do or did without” often. However, the economics of the day required good decent shoes from a shoe store–one pair to get you through. It is not the economics of our day to day lives currently–we move beyond what is necessary and our children have six pairs of shoes in their closets (or more). At what cost is this excess to our planet, to others working to produce these articles, to our homes with limited space, to ourselves spending the time and resources to constantly buy up more? By the time I was a teenager I boasted over owning over 25 pairs of cheaply made shoes (not much to boast about)–now they all lay in a landfill. As an adult I want to return to the economic of the Quimby’s–to buy one good pair of shoes for my daughter (when they are needed) and make due when we can. This simplification of priorities and choosing need over wants (with an occasional treat here and there) is what made the Quimby’s a happy family–I hope it makes yours one too.