When the Matron was but a Wee Miss, say seven or eight, she remembers her mother sighing over Wee Miss's uneaten dinner (which would be from McDonald's or a box, but that's another story).
Mother: "When I was little, my parents always told me that children were starving in China and I should eat my dinner. What good did my food do for starving children in China? But you should eat your dinner. Someone is starving somewhere."
So Wee Miss understood that somehow, another child's starvation was related to her own untouched french fries.
Throughout her childhood, she remembers seeing pictures of hollow-eyed children in magazines and on television, toddlers with huge-heads, vacant faces, and stick limbs. They were always sitting in dirt.
Wee Miss contemplated these images and contrasted them to her own existence. You see, Wee Miss wanted Frances McGuire's life. Frances McGuire lived in a palatial estate (in Wee Miss's estimation). Frances McGuire had her own room and it was ENTIRELY IN PINK. And she had, dream of all dreams, a canopy bed. Her mother baked brownies in a spotless kitchen where all the plates had pretty, matching colors and designs. The bathroom towels were visibly fluffy and Frances McGuire herself wore crisp pretty dresses to school -- it seemed like a new one appeared every week -- and her hair was braided or curled or otherwise styled into something that spoke to Wee Miss about a mama behind a brush, a big house and happiness.
Wee Miss's own home and maternal experience paled in comparison. Her own clothes came from garage sales and there was never any money, let alone time, for good smells wafting out of the oven. The kitchen was shiny or spotless or even a kitchen, but a nook off of the single room serving as both eating and living space.
These circumstances -- her own misfortune and yearning in comparison to Frances and her own vast good fortune compared to the starving children in countries far away -- confused Wee Miss. Was she the luckiest little girl alive or the girl who lived a life far away from privilege?
Funny how some things never change.
As of late, the Matron has been yearning for what she doesn't have: financial security, extra money in the bank, a boundless income. She'd love to say with assurance to her children -- yes! Be smart enough and you can go to Harvard or Yale or any college of your dreams and abilities! She's love to say, yes! Let's tour Scotland and Italy and China and Thailand before it's too late.
But today, while driving to the moderate-income job she's lucky to have, the Matron hit the tail end of a National Public Radio piece on Rupert Murdoch, his riches, fame and current fall. This is a story she's been hearing all week -- his thousands of employees, millions of dollars, infinity of influence and prestige. She supposes she can google and find out how many houses he owns.
Then, she heard the story that isn't this week's news, but the eternal story, the story that simply recycles itself generation after generation after generation: children are dying of starvation and disease. This isn't the story Americans are fed at their own dinner tables, whether those tables are full of fast food or organic greens. Exciting news is the unanticipated suffering of the Rupert Murdochs of the world. Endless news is the enduring, age-old suffering of people who have no choice.
And so . . . the Matron continues to wonder. How does this all relate to her own wealth, ambitions, shortcomings and excesses. How is it possible to have so much and always want more?