Trying to pull off American dream

Published 1:24 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sweat starting to emerge from my wife’s brow as I grimace with every tug.

The sound of huffing and puffing is heard under her breath. The numbing gel sits on the table next to my daughter, a pair of tweezers and a towel.

My son is in the background practicing his Beethoven (or was it Chopin?) and I am standing by with a hopeful expression on my face, rooting on my wife to get a grip on that tooth.

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The impossible loose tooth that had evaded us for weeks was ready for freedom. Its grip was strong however and our attempt on forcing its departure had failed again that night.

I work on million dollar houses, built for millionaires to give them their typical millionaire status. I see money being spent faster than I can wink an eye at my wife, to build a roof over someone’s head.

Less, definitely, could be more as couples build their second or third home, thousands of square feet, to lay their heads for part of the year. I always say I’m one idea away from being a millionaire, but this isn’t what I had in mind.

We currently live in a one-room efficiency apartment above a garage. We landed here due to the economy, being in and out of work for years now, and my wife going to nursing school full time.

Both out of choice, as well as necessity, we covet the opportunity we have to live and save money here.

With construction and the economy the way it is, daddy here has taken several pay cuts to earn a living, yet my kids are happy and content as can be. We have a roof over our heads, beds to lay in and good food to eat.

We are cramped, but safe, and thankful for what we have.

Working on these mansions in the sky makes me wonder, especially in the economy we’re in. There are people thriving like never before, building something seemingly unnecessary, while other well educated, perfectly able Americans (like myself) are just scooting by, riding out the economical tsunami wave.

Is it really needed? I see slave labor on these houses, at wages that just get us by from week to week, to build a place big enough to fit five families. More power to the people not affected, for working hard and getting to this status. That’s America.

When I pictured my life years ago, it didn’t include living in this one room. Yet we continually come back to our bare necessities and cling to the simplicities of life. The importance of the safety of my kids and the fact that there are others out there that have it worse, puts it in perspective for me.

My kids, who sleep in bunk beds in the same room as mommy and daddy, think it’s the coolest thing in the world. So then what more could we really want (aside from a little more space)?

In the end, it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich responsible for snatching my daughter’s tooth from her mouth. We stopped yanking briefly to give her hugs of conciliation, so we could begin pulling again. At one point I even brought out the pliers – I was then given “the look,” so the pliers quickly were put back. But a good old-fashioned pb&j was as good as a dentist’s pull, and a lot cheaper. The next day unbeknownst to my daughter, it came out, and she never felt a thing, awesome.

I realize time and chance happen to all. I accept that idea and the American ideal of pursuing a living and a dream of your choosing. People work hard to get where they are in their lives. We all pull our weight, go to college, do our American duty, but in the end some never succeed enough to build that mansion or buy the chunk of land of their dreams.

Then there are others who are minding their own business, eating a pb&j sandwich and strike gold without even trying.

Chris Jakubowicz lives in Columbus with his wife and children. His bi-weekly column will focus on how he and his family are trying to get back to their grassroots. Jakubowicz can be reached by e-mail at