A Chrysler Christmas

Here in Detroit, Christmas is looking grim for a lot of folks. Despite the fact that my husband Al works for Chrysler, I am not about to let the season be spoiled.

Yes, I feel terrible that so many are losing jobs at the worst possible time of year. Yes, I’m embarrassed that a bunch of clueless rich guys descended on Washington in individual company jets and came away without the help our city needs. But no, I don’t think things are hopeless. There are solutions. For example, we could fire all the millionaire executives. Their weekly salaries would feed and house several working class folks for a long time.

Word is if we have to wait until Obama’s sworn in, everyone working for the autos will be out of a job. That’s how bad it is. And yet, I persist in looking for the positive. At least Christmas will be less commercial this year.

Most of the friends I exchange gifts with have decided to send checks to charity instead. We’re not meeting in fancy restaurants but planning home parties with food and good cheer and sharing the wonderful feeling that comes with giving to those in most desperate need. Even as we worry about how we’ll pay our bills if our industry goes away, we are not there yet. We know there are people in far worse situations all over the world.

The fact that I’m not in my usual shopping frenzy this year has made Al happy. He has always hated the out-of-control spending assoicated with the holidays. Al loves finance, he loves strategizing about money and budgets, he loves to see wealth accumulate in the bank. Whereas, I like to spend. This year, I feel good about spending on people who need it the most.

Because Al is a frugal man, I trust we will be fine no matter what happens to Chrysler. It’s other people I worry about. We have lived in the same modest home for most of our married life. We came from even humbler beginnings, and we never understood exactly how people could afford those big homes everyone around us seemed to be buying. Now we know. They couldn’t. Not really. Who knew you couldn’t trust a bank to tell the truth about how much of a mortgage you could afford?

Another big way Al has economized over the years is with cars. We always buy Chrysler vehicles, but when everyone else in Detroit was leasing two new SUVs every year and a sports car for their kids, we kept our cars until they died from exhaustion. Al still drives a truck from the 80s. We love antiques at our house. Old things well cared for give us pleasure. And at our age, that includes each other.

So I’m counting my many blessings this holiday season, despite the dark mood in my city. I’m grateful for generous friends and loving family, and especially for Al. I celebrate his good fiscal sense. I see that slowing down, enjoying the season, and loving what I already have is, just like he always told me, the true spirit of Christmas.

(Originally published on 50-Something Moms blog.)

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