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  • Two days in a row I took my daughter roller skating. The rink has a small store full of things we don't need--neon knee-highs, fancy skates, key chains. Our house is already overflowing with stuff. I may spend my summer winnowing piles of outgrown clothes, worn out shoes, books we've decided against keeping. Our coffee table is cluttered with magazines, and at least half of them have cover stories on how to tackle the clutter. The answer? According the magazines, it involves buying more stuff, plastic bins and hangers. Our daughter's room is crowded with toys, but there was a tiny stuffed monkey in the skate shop and she couldn't get her mind off it. That monkey! She asked, would I please buy her that monkey. Please. Please just for a special treat, she said. It was only six dollars. Please, she'd really play with it, she would, she would she would.

    She was absolutely driving me crazy, begging for a stuffed monkey. It was unceasing.

    We didn't go back to the rollerskating rink the third day.

    I couldn't take the begging.

    Instead we drove out of town, through the woods, through a corridor of trees, until we reached the Pacific, where there was nothing but sand and rocks as far as we could see. We let our dog run. My daughter found stones, shells, sea anemones. We stopped to watch tiny darting fish we couldn't take home, could only watch, then we kept going. She picked up small rocks and carried them for a while, then threw them back to the sand. She drew with a stick until she was done with it, and left her drawings on the beach and her stick for the next kid or dog or person. It was a temporary ownership.

    That's the way to own most things: briefly, if at all.

    She sang songs and lifted handfuls of sand. All that torment--the need to own a six dollar stuffed monkey!--the painful urge of lack, the consumerism, just went away, out in the world on vacation in a place with nothing to buy.
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