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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wallpaper Riches or Bing Cherries?


I stood in the market looking at bags of Bing cherries, remembering. Yes, I think of it every time I partake of those big fat black luscious cherries, the time I was thirteen and got to climb up into a cherry tree to pick them. It was a luxury I’d not known before or since to gather and partake of Bing cherries at their best with no limitation, no price to pay. We were visiting distant cousins in Oregon. The girls were my age and, though I’d never known them before, we chatted like old friends,  giggled like birds in the leafy red-clad boughs as we picked and ate.  After piling our bags onto the table where our mothers stood canning in the steamy kitchen the girls took me into their bedroom and in the dim light of half closed shades they sat me down and began to tell me about fairies. They were true believers of those tiny winged marvels and said I had only to believe they exist to actually see them and be welcomed into their world. I did too, but only as I do today, in imagination's eye. 

That day was re-lived in my mind’s eye those many years later as I stood there in the market. Then I picked up one of the net bags and weighed it. Quick calculations of the price I’d pay at the check-out stand made me put the bag back, but I stood a minute longer staring at it and thinking this: “Sweet berries, you are so beautiful. You’ll taste so good to someone else who will come along today and take you home, but I mustn’t pay $8.00 for you. Sorry!”

Then I heard another voice. It said, “So you think God loves that "someone else" more than you? 

“No!” I protested. “I know God doesn’t play favorites. I know He is impartially loving and giving to all His children, including me.” I picked up the bag, put it into my cart and, well, you can paint in the rest of the picture. Far more than the tasty enjoyment of those cherries has been the lesson they taught me that day. It said, “You are just as loved as anyone, but you need to stop penny pinching and spend! Not unwisely, of course, but grant yourself the pleasure of luxuries once in a while when you can do it without borrowing or stealing. To be rich, be rich in more ways than money!

Watching a savings account grow in early life should mean relaxing in senior years to enjoy the fruits of  our labors, but often older people can’t release their grip on the pocketbook. By the time they should be spending their hard-earned savings on a few luxuries it’s become a habit to skimp and save, this time for that scary spectre of nursing homes and such. The sight of a fat bottom in the bank is, to some, more pleasant and secure than the things they might spend it on. They go without only to find that inflation has made the intended purchases more expensive and the interest on their money will have been eaten up by the passage of time, not to mention the years of going without those things they might have been enjoying all along. I say those people ought to cash in, take newly printed bills and wallpaper the walls with money. If the sight of greenbacks is that pleasant, why not?

Fear plays a leading role in the penny-pincher’s heart. Afraid to spend for fear of being caught short by some emergency? Likely then you’ll have that emergency and say, “See? I’m so glad I saved for it!” I’m not saying one should be foolishly unprepared for the worst, but there’s also foolishness in being miserly. If we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy some luxuries in life, that is foolish, in my book.

Wally, my husband and the father of my children, had a healthy respect for cash. He liked to have a lot of it in his wallet, bills all neatly uncurled, matching corners and pressed evenly. He was not much for credit cards and he did like to see a goodly sum at the bottom of his bank statements. But he did not deny himself luxury whenever he could afford it. At least once a year, usually Christmas time, he’d take the whole family out to the fanciest, most highly rated restaurant he knew of. He'd have reserved a large table and after everyone was seated and presented with a menu he’d say, “Don’t look at the right side of the menu, kids. Get exactly what you like the most. I’ve saved for this." Then we’d all be glad to do as he said. Those dinners were luxurious love feasts and they remain precious memories,.

Near the end of his life on earth this dear man told me that he had been saving for the next dinner out with the family. He said, “We haven't been with the whole family at once for a long time and my dinner fund is getting big, so be sure not to give that old checkered jacket of mine to the Goodwill without getting the money out of the inside pocket, Joy.” Some friends came over the day he died and when they were leaving one said, “Do you have enough ready cash to take care of things untill the bank opens on Monday?” I said, “I think so,” and went to look in the checkered coat pocket. There I found $1,800.00 in neatly folded bills! They came in handy but I kept aside enough of them to start building for another Christmas dinner at Gulliver’s. I wasn’t the least tempted to bank those bills or use them for wallpaper! 

P.S. The last time I bought a bag of Bing cherries I over-indulged and got a stomach ache. It’s no wonder that super-rich people are often not as happy as many poorer people. Luxury, like Bing cherries, can be enjoyed more keenly in moderation. And that first dollar bill framed on the wall for a business that made it speaks louder than thousands of greenbacks on the walls! 

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