Monday, April 04, 2011

wicker basket of bills

I often write about my reminiscences of growing up, or, more accurately, about how those memories change as I grow to understand what was really happening. You see, as a child, you take things in like one who maybe can't speak spanish, but can see the emotions and images in a telenovela--you kind of know what's going on, but you fill in the blanks with what you imagine. And, as a child, what you imagine tends to be perfect.

So, I think as a child, I remember there was once a month when my mom and dad would get out this wicker basket that sat by the door, and sort through envelopes. Dad would have a calculator out, and he and mom would both put on their glasses. They would both look flustered and frustrated and often, they would rub their temples and shuffle the papers around. They were paying bills.

It seemed, as a child, that this task was an annoyance, but nothing too terrible. Now, as I sit to pay my own bills, and have only myself to pay for, I can only imagine how terrible a task that was. My father made less money than I did, and had built a house and was feeding three kids and a wife. My mom, at the same time, was trying to keep us clothed, entertained, fed and schooled...and then would sit down to the wicker basket of bills.

We weren't, by any means, poor--but we surely weren't rich either. I remember the luxury of going to a movie and what a treat it was. When An American Tale came out, we were going to see it as a family. My dad gave my mom a twenty dollar bill and she was going to take us...but we were playing grocery store before going to the movie. Playing involved using the coffee table as a grocery checkout and one of us would bring items and the other would "scan" them making a beeping noise. At one point, someone took the twenty and put it in the "cash register", which we didn't tell my mom, and the twenty was lost.

My mom was devestated. Without the twenty, not only could we not afford to go to the movies that day, but her chance to treat us to something out of the ordinary was also gone because we could afford such a treat only very rarely. Thinking that a lost twenty dollar bill (I know...inflation means it was worth more than twenty today...but still) would keep me from seeing a movie or otherwise doing what I want seems ridiculous to me now. I guess my point is just isn't easy to come by for me today, and it was even harder for my parents.

It's so strange for me to pay my bills with the annoyance once a month of going online and pushing buttons. But for me, there are no checkbooks to balance and checks to ensure clear before writing another one. There are no annoying kids yelling for attention and ripping their nice pants. There are not fears of losing the house, or of having to save for college. And yet, I can empathize with what they did...for me. It's hard to think my parents were like me, or more appropriately, that I am like them, but that is the case. As for me, I'm more than OK with that, I'm happy with it. So few people do it right, but they did it right, and hopefully I can do the same...bills and all.


Post a Comment

<< Home