That Sunday’s Skype session with my mom had been like most others—until it wasn’t.
“Mom, Pier and I are thinking about downsizing and living a more minimalistic lifestyle. We want to save money at a faster rate, so we can buy some land and build a small home of our own sooner rather than later.”
(I should mention Pier and I live in the Bay Area, where the astronomical cost of housing means saving money is a foreign concept for many. We dared to rent a 1-bedroom apartment with a dishwasher AND a washer/dryer, so needless to say, our bank accounts plummet the first of every month.)
“Oh, that’s good hon. Maybe find a cheaper apartment?”
“Yeah, maybe . . . but we’re honestly kinda tired of paying rent altogether and are thinking about buying an RV to live in. There are places around here you can park overnight, and on the weekends, we’d grab a campsite outside the city.”
Presently, my mom’s face looked as though she were trying to exchange pleasantries with someone whose breath smelled of garlic and coffee. She wanted to maintain an upbeat tone so as not to upset me, God love her.
“An RV? Hon . . . I enjoy camping, but after two days . . . I wanna scream. Where will you put all your things? You’ll have to sell everything, and I want you to have nice things!”
I held my breath.
I could have easily responded, “Nice things?! Do you know how expensive ‘nice’ things are, and how far people fall into debt with nice things? How much people struggle and work their asses off in a volatile job market to pay for nice things?!”
But I didn’t say that.
Because she’s my mother—and she was being a mother.
Mothers want their children to have nice things—to be able to buy things they couldn’t have when they were younger. My mom wants me to have amazing things because, damn it, I’m her son and I deserve it. Living in a camper meant living below my means and depriving myself of possessions that could bring me joy.
I could feel the tears burning behind my eyes. Because I loved that she was being a mother who cared unconditionally for her son.
“I know you do, Mom,” I said. “And I love you for that. But to be honest, getting a cheaper apartment isn’t exactly cheap here.”
I went on to explain that anything below $1,700 a month in this area means sacrificing every nicety we have now anyway. At that price, there won’t be a dishwasher or a washer/dryer. It would be a 350 square-foot studio with paper-thin walls located in a questionable neighborhood.
“You’d probably prefer living in a camper, to be honest,” I said.
“I’m sorry for being a Debbie Downer. I just want you all to be careful if you do this, and I just hate the idea of you selling all your stuff.”
I reassured her we would not miss the IKEA showroom in which we’ve been living and that any personal item with any remote sentimental value would be kept and treasured.
Several weeks after that conversation, Pier and I bought our first truck camper from a
young couple who had lived in it full-time for a year. The whole process was a blur. After handing over $14,250 cash, signing the title, and buying insurance, I looked at Pier and said, “Did we just buy a truck camper? Where the hell are we parking it?”
We laughed, suddenly aware of how much we were going to trip over our cluelessness and naïveté in the coming months.
I texted my mom a picture of us standing in front of it in the AAA parking lot with a message that read, “Big day today!”
She responded with a “Wow!” and a smiling emoji—but I knew that behind that smiling emoji, there was a worried mother who would have likely preferred to see a Lexus behind us.