Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Money Didn't Matter Yesterday

One of my mother’s favorite stories is how I told my kindergarten teacher my parents were old, “Like seventy.” The teacher assumed I was being raised by my grandparents, until my mother’s first classroom visit.

“Wow, you look great for seventy,” the teacher laughed.

All I knew was that my parents were old, and seventy was old, so my parents were seventy. Dylan is no different. Becky is twenty seven, and he keeps saying she’s seventy two because there’s a seven in the number. I could be eighty, thirty, or sixty, whatever feels old to him that week.

He’s the same way with money.

For someone who has never cared about money, I’m thinking about it way too much lately. Making money was nice, but not nice enough to keep managing at retail chains. Maybe I don't think much of making money because I didn’t make enough. I sure didn’t save anything. Eating beans two meals a day and refusing myself purchases is one thing, but Dylan is five (well, six today).

I read about one mother who explained to her son that she would love to buy him a new video game system, but doing so would require money she didn’t have. “I’d need to work harder to make more money, and I’d have less time to spend with you. Would you like that?” The boy choose mom’s presence over the Okama Gamesphere, or whatever.

Becky and I tried to make Dylan see the connection between taking him out to lunch, and buying him toys, and taking him to Universal Studios in Orlando for his birthday, and throwing him a Star Wars-themed party on the actual day of his birthday (although now it’s Dinosaur-themed), and buying birthday gifts, and saving up for us all to live together.

Dylan promises to help. He has enough money saved to buy himself a pink mustang and me a red mustang, and Becky a Jeep, and for all of us to go to Orlando. Fifteen, maybe twenty dollars. If we buy him a toy for being angelic at work (every day in the summer is bring your child to work day at Books & Books, because what bookseller can afford daycare?), and throw him a huge party, he will pay for the trip to Universal.

He’s six and he wants the world, and what six-year-old doesn’t? Tears over not getting his way I can handle; it’s the bargaining that breaks my heart.

A few years back around Thanksgiving, my siblings and my cousins were telling stories about our shared childhood. The “toe-curler” came up, as it always does. Five of us on the floor, held in place by a blanket so thick it curled our toes, while my sister – the Princess – got the couch.

Five kids sleeping on the living room floor under a blanket.

“I think we were poor,” my cousin Shannon said, and we died laughing.

We didn’t feel poor, of course. I just need to get over it, and by “it” I mean Miami. I’ve lived here long enough that I’ve forgotten the shock of moving down and seeing how people measure their lives in toys and titles, in bank accounts and designer labels.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

-Strickland Gillilan,The Reading Mother

In that sense, Dylan will be a sultan.


  1. Ha - I remember my nephew being aged about six, sitting beside me concentrating on what game we were playing until I realised that he had gone quiet, him looking at me with the utmost seriousness and asking earnestly

    "Uncle Alistair, what was life like in the olden days?"

    {I heard my own Dad in the background almost choke on his coffee.}

    I looked serious and thoughtfully at him before responding,

    "Oh Adam, I don't really know. I always asked your Dad about things like that when I was small and he always knew the answer, so maybe you should go and ask him."

    Dad and I collapsed laughing as he left the room with his brows knitted together in concentration, hunting down his father to ask the question.........

    Looking back at my childhood, we were brought up poor too but didn't see that at the time as the whole village was the same. Like you, we were rich in so many other ways too.

    Another nice one Aaron.

  2. Thanks, Al.

    I guess I should have the kid sic the tough questions on his dad.