A few nights ago, in these days before Christmas, I was driving through the downtown streets of the small city where I live, and I saw a woman looking into the window of a resale furniture shop. It was evening, and she was standing in a circle of light from a street lamp wearing a black coat and a long purple scarf. She was looking in the window as if she really wanted whatever was inside, leaning in towards the display with her face close to the glass. I watched her as I sat stopped at a red light, and then in my rear view mirror until I couldn’t see her anymore.
I can’t remember the last time I saw an adult look at something with such unashamed wanting. With young children, you get used to naked displays of desire. There’s never a moment when my kids don’t want something, desperately, and I don’t mean care or attention, I mean actual things. But as adults, you try to learn moderation, control. I once tried to explain to my oldest son, who is 10 and fierce with wanting, that it was “okay to want things, that everyone wants things, but most of the time, we have everything that we need.” I said this in a kindly, enlightened voice, and he, through gritted teeth, said, “But it’s never all in the same place at the same time!”