Katie McCarthy: Hand-me-downs are still a part of adult life

June 27, 2013 

The rose-colored glasses of youth paint a very different picture of adulthood than what most of us experience when we get here.

When you're in junior high or high school, 30 seems so old. You think after three decades, one foot is practically in the grave.

You also expect that your life will be in order. You'll be independent, working a full-time job. Maybe married with a kid or two. You'll have disposable income. New furnishings. You'll take vacations every year. You won't rely on your parents for anything -- especially if you've become a parent yourself.

But there aren't a lot of 30 year olds who can claim all that.

I can check off a couple of those boxes, but certainly not all. For instance, this week I accepted a hand-me-down kitchen table from my father. It is nicer than the budget-brand one we previously used and cheaper (free!) than others we'd looked at.

Plus it fits nicely in our tiny eating area.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have been trying to replace our hand-me-down items with new things that better fit our taste and lifestyle and are built to last which usually makes them kind of pricey.

Needless to say, this process has been slow.

We're still lounging on nearly 30-year-old (ancient!) living room furniture and using a garage-sale washer and dryer while we put aside money to replace those expensive investments.

In the mean time, I try to come up with projects to revamp what we've got. I'm already planning on re-staining our recently acquired kitchen table and reupholstering the chairs that came with it.

I think the reason it becomes so frustrating not to be living the lives we imagined when we were 13 years old is because we likely never saw our parents at this stage in their lives. And if we did, we probably don't remember it.

So we assume that what our parents had while we were growing up is what we should have now -- see the afore mentioned list. But the amazing thing about parents is they don't tell their kids everything.

For all I know, most of the furniture I grew up on was hand-me-downs. But I just assumed my parents bought it new because it was always there.

The dreary economic times during which we've joined the workforce also play a role in young adults' inability to lay out brand new lives for themselves.

Just finding a job can be difficult enough; any extra expenditures tend to fall by the wayside.

So while it might have been a bit of a blow to my almost-30-year-old, new-parent ego to accept yet another large donation from my parents, it's also a much more practical option than any of the alternatives -- not to mention it gives me a new project to work on.

And I suppose it could be considerably worse -- I could be moving back in with them.

Katie McCarthy, copy editor, can be reached at kmccarthy@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8515.

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