Today I was standing in line at the grocery store, staring at the racks of aspirational magazines. This was at Sprouts, so instead of People and US with their tales of celebrity divorces, they have OC Living, Sunset, and Epicurean to make you feel better about yourself for shopping at Sprouts, while reminding you that your neighbors are probably living better than you are.
While I stared at the images of chicly landscaped back yards and scanned over headlines that promised to let you in on the secrets of living better than everyone else, I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing life wrong, just in general. There was an old man in line in front of me, hunched over his shopping cart, wearing a neatly ironed button-down stars and stripes shirt and a red cap. He turned to me, smiled, and broke me out of my haze by asking with a wink, “Boy is there some kind of holiday happening this weekend or something?”
“That’s what I hear, but I’m not sure I believe it,” I replied, winking back.
He leaned in and said, “You know, this will be my 83rd Fourth of July.”
“Wow, nicely done!”
“But what’s even better,” he added, nodding toward his wife who was now at the cashier stand, “We just celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary!”
“Oh wow, congratulations, that’s great!”
“Yeah, she keeps me alive,” he continued grinning.
“Well she deserves a medal for that, doesn’t she.” I winked; he laughed.
He went on to tell me about how they’ve lived in the same home since 1955 when they bought a half acre of land for $12,000. The city had even offered to buy them out, but their children and grandchildren have urged them to keep the home.
“Smart move,” I said, and meant it. A half acre of land in Huntington Beach is worth a lot of money, but even more, you could hear the pride in his voice as he brought up the family and home that he obviously loves very much.
His wife finished paying for their groceries. “It was nice talking to you; have a good weekend!” He said.
“And you have a happy Fourth of July, ” I answered. From his smile I am certain that he will.
It was then that I realized that the truly aspirational lifestyle couldn’t be found on the magazine covers; it had been standing right in front of me.