Excerpt: The American Dream “Bigger is Better”

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Living Large in Our Little House:”

Golden rays of a setting July sun beamed through leaded-glass windows, highlighting dancing dust particles in the air. It was the only movement in what had been a bustling and busy family home until just a few hours before.

Wilson House Summer (2)

My mother and sister had taken their last loads of belongings, but I was still trying to get mine out. After I finished, Mom asked me to return to the empty 1920s Tudor to do one more walk-through and leave the keys and a note on the kitchen counter for the people who had purchased what had once been her dream house.

Exactly five years after moving in – almost to the day – I found myself watching those dust particles scattering as my family was scattering throughout Kansas City.

In their mid-fifities, my parents upsized from an 800-square-foot stucco bungalow to the 1,800- square-foot brick Tudor. It had taken thirty-four years, but they were finally making it out of their starter home. They were living the American Dream.

Now Mom knew she couldn’t handle that huge home alone and had finally admitted the house was too much for her to maintain, both financially and physically. Except for the day of my father’s funeral, I had never seen my mother as sad as when she handed me those keys and the note for the new owners.

I went back to my apartment that night, no longer excited, but heartbroken. What was left of my childhood had shattered the night my father passed away, and if I had any idealistic thoughts left of the American Dream, they were marred by my mother having to give up on hers.

It was the 80s, and the message that “bigger is better” was everywhere, from new subdivisions being built around us to the theme song from The Jeffersons, which pounded into our heads that if we could “move on up” we had arrived.

What did it mean for my mother to have lost that dream? What did it mean for me – and the values my parents instilled in me that, if you worked hard you were rewarded?

You can read more about my struggle with the “bigger is better” American Dream in my book, “Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet With Six Dogs, a Husband And One Remote….Plus, More Stories of How You Can, Too.”

(Photo of Wilson House by Angela Henderson Eldering)

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