Thursday, March 27, 2008

Money Childhood Memories

While the hambone is simmering in navy bean soup (it's the Michigan coming out in me), I ran across these interesting posts:

What are some of your childhood memories of money?

A few for me:

*Watching my brother pick up yet another dime or nickel from the ground...I rarely seemed to find any. Worrying that I was going to lose the grimy pennies or nickel clutched in the fuzz at the bottom of my pocket. Admiring the shiny plastic coin purse or wallet I got for my birthday, and feeling pride at the dollar bills stashed inside.

*Selling corn and raspberries out by the road to passing motorists, with a few homemade potholders of my own on the table, as well.

*Picking fruit -- especially blueberries and strawberries. We couldn't afford the little plastic boxes at the supermarket, but standing in the sun, popping a warm berry in your mouth, was a pleasure not to be bought at the store. My grandma in a feedsack apron, scarf wrapped around her head, looking like the pictures of European peasants I saw in books. (Europe was an incredible faroff place to this Michigan farmgirl.) Buckets of berries, poured carefully into quart boxes. Then home to make jam, with the sweetness permeating the kitchen air -- and 'foam' scraped off to eat on a cracker. Jars lined up on the table, with a hazy skim of wax protecting the fruit.

*Starting work at the hardware store, age 15. I worked there 5 days a week -- no Sunday or Thursday -- all through high school, and some college breaks and summers. I was so excited: instead of the 75 cents I was paid for babysitting, I would get a munificent $1.50 an hour!
(Daughters yawn at this...they get $5-6 hourly for one kid babysitting.)

*Having a bowl of clam chowder one snowy day during lunch break from the hardware store -- and tipping the waitress $5. (Left a thank you note, too. She WAS great, even to a snot-nosed high schooler like me.) Watching the farmers come into Cnossen's for coffee and a doughnut, then across the street to pick up a part at the hardware store. Running across the street at breaktime to the bakery for a large, warm oatmeal cookie. (A huge splurge I didn't dare to attempt much -- cost perhaps 50 cents!)

*Buying my mom an angel candle that cost a whole TEN DOLLARS for Christmas. I cannot even now tell you how much that sum represented back then. (Must have been about 8th grade.)

*Spending a day shopping 'downtown' (the la-dee-dah spot in Grand Rapids) with Mom, cousins and Aunt Maxine. We'd head straight to Wurzburg's, have a chef salad at their lunchroom, then analyze the dresses before going down to the bargains in the basement. (To this day, I still associate chef salads and Wurzburg's -- long out of business -- with careless, prodigal luxury.) After a few more stops to check clothes styles, we'd go to the fabric store and pick out a pattern and fabric as close to the store models as we could get. My mom sewed beautifully -- she often did tailoring for other people, including suits and wedding gowns. Excepting cousins' hand-me-downs, I don't think I had a storebought dress until I was a junior in high school.

*Saving half my money for college. No matter what, even though this was a far-off dream back in the late 60s and 70s. Ten percent for tithing, the rest was mine for whatever was needed. (I tried very hard not to ask my folks for cash -- that's what jobs were for, although I did get 50 cents a week in allowance through middle school. Again, it's difficult to express HOW MUCH that 50 cents represented.)

*Grad school at the University of Michigan. Living on canned spaghetti, invites to the local commune from a fellow English Lit buddy, or the $1.35 fried rice special at a local Chinese restaurant in Ann Arbor. (Where, incidentally, I met a tall North Carolinian named Dave one day!) My home was the attic of a gracious, ivy-over-brick 'mansion.' I lived there, and got breakfast in return for keeping the house clean and looking after their 12-year-old daughter. (Lunch too, if I came home and walked the dog.) He was the chairman of the Classics department, she was a lawyer -- and the oldest daughter of the British novelist Evelyn Waugh. Boy, the books I read that year!

*Our first (student) apartment as a married couple -- $115 a month. Even that amount was hard to come up with, and I was working full-time! We ate a lot of ramen (especially a brand called Sapporo Ichiban, which was 25 lavish cents), chicken noodle soup and peanut butter sandwiches back then. I threw a surprise birthday party for Dave our first year -- invited 11 or 12 people. I didn't think of our place being small until then. It was so crowded that no one literally had room to sit down. (My bro-in-law spent the evening lying underneath the dining room table!)

Writing these down, I suddenly realized -- a lot of my money-related childhood memories also have something to do with food! Weird...

1 comment:

Allison Ann Aller said...

Didn't you go to Steketee's too?
;-) And what about Herplesheimer's?

Congratulations, Ana and Tyler!

Ana and Tyler Ferguson got married today.  We were standing by the shelter at Daniel's Park, overlooking a lovely setting. Lots of whi...