One of the best memories I have from childhood is a day when I was about ten years old. My folks had scrimped and saved and purchased a twenty-two foot sailboat, which we christened “Tradition.” In my eyes, it was the QE2 (the Queen Elisabeth 2, a seventy ton cruise ship, which visited our Island every year).

This really was a perfect day: The winds had been steady enough to keep the boat on an even keel and all day the sun bathed the salt air in warmth. I spent most of the time at the bow, my legs draped over the side with my toes straining to touch the crests of the waves.

As we began the run down the sound to our harbor, my Mom began serving the lobsters and salad she had carefully prepped in our cramped galley. Juices dripping off my chin, and a smile on my lips, I looked over at my Dad, who stood with one hand on the tiller and the other wrapped around a lobster claw. He smiled back and said those words, which have stayed with me to this day:

“Dani, I want you to know that it never gets any better than this, only bigger.”

And he was right.

It’s amazing how bigger continues to be defined as better in our society. Most recently, I witnessed this on the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. No, I don’t normally watch it, but for some reason the TV was on that night and Dr. J and I just wanted to unplug. It was almost over and Ty Pennington screamed: “Move that bus!” There before a small family was a 5300 square foot house. It was so over the top that it defied explanation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping folks who are going through a hard time. But, this house was so big that the family couldn’t even afford to pay the taxes or utilities on it. They had to be given a check to cover those expenses. Now, I have to ask, do they really need a 5300 house? Wouldn’t they have been just as happy with something half that size and much more manageable?

From SUVs to McMansions, I’m getting tired of the gluttony. When did we as a society loose sight of what it means to be happy? As long as you have a sense of stability, a person is not going be any happier in 5300 square foot house then a 1500 square foot house. Hell, when I was a kid, I spent most of my summers in a small camp/cottage by a lake that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. Yet, even now looking back I wouldn’t have changed a thing – not the games of matchstick poker, the late night skinny dips, the canoes which double as water slides or sailing battles. It’s the experience that matters, not the size of the materials.

Yet this basic common knowledge continues to elude us as consumers.

My only hope is that Little M and J someday get also get opportunity to sail down the sound with my father, salad dressing dripping off their chins, the smell of salt in the air and learn the lesson that eludes the majority of us, Americans: Bigger is not better.
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