Every morning, like I was trained to do, I would dress and be ready for school, and while passing by where my father and his two workers built, I would go give him a kiss goodbye. And every time, he would have money for me. Sometimes, he would hand over twenty-five cents, other days, a lot of five cent pieces that amounted to nearly a dollar, but every day, he had some money for me.
In school, having money meant a fabulous recess. Five cents got me an ‘ideal’, those sugary frozen popsicle-style things, and one cent got me a cookie – the buttery, crispy sort that came two dozen to a bag. Of course, the first thing I did when my father started giving me money was spend it all every day – I had lots of friends that term. They always got treats for recess. Some of them didn’t have shoes to go to school, so I enjoyed buying them something fun.
Every day after school, my father would be waiting for me for our afternoon nap under the shade of the grapefruit tree. I would run home to my grandmother’s house just a few hundred yards down, take off my clothes and shoes, slip into a big t-shirt, drop my bag and go to snuggle to my father. We’d lie on a piece of celotex, and I’d tell him about my day at school. He always asked me - right when I was drifting off, if I spent all my money. I’d say yes.
Soon, the novelty of having money wore off, and my friends weren’t as numerous as before. So, instead of spending all my money, I took to placing the change into my fanny pack. I thought I found a clever hiding place, hanging behind piles and piles of clothes, coats and sweaters. Some days, he would give me an American dollar. Those I never spent. I would often sit and count my stash when my aunts and uncle weren’t around. Soon, I had amassed quite a fortune. $46 was a lot of money back then, and I thought of all the wonderful things I could buy during vacation, when I went back to the island.
Then one day, my grandmother had absolutely no money to buy any groceries to feed her brood, and me. I thought of the money I had in my fanny pack, which I hadn’t touched in a few days. Pleased to be able to help, I ran to my hiding spot. As I opened it, my heart sank. I found only a few cents and a couple five cent pieces. My money was all gone.
The question was, who took it? I had thought my aunts to be honest and good people. My uncle not so much (for reasons many of you may already know). I knew my grandmother had not touched my stash. Who could it have been? My aunts were very defensive, claiming not to have known about my hiding spot. Ultimately, the money was gone, my grandmother needed to feed us, and a search through the house yielded one lone ten dollar bill that bought enough things to feed us for days.
I was very puzzled about the missing money, and I told my father about it. He had been very proud of me as I recounted how I was saving my allowance. Now he was intrigued – but in a rare move for him, he did not raise a fuss. Instead, he continued giving me money. I kept saving it in my fanny pack, and being me, I left it in the same spot.
Imagine my surprise one day when I walked in on my elder aunt sticking her hand in the fanny pack. She was very angry, mostly at having been caught, but being older and bigger than me, she threatened to beat me if I said anything. I told my father, who simply said, “Don’t worry about it. Now you know what she’s like.”
My disappointment in my aunt, plus my loss of innocence and trust in the grown-ups around me – well, the lesson was bitter indeed. As children, we grow up molded in the lessons that adults impart on us. We are taught life lessons by these people taxed to raise us. When the lessons are about “no stealing”, “don’t hurt one another”, yet they themselves blatantly do the same – it makes for a very confusing world.
Is it any wonder we’re in this pickle? We talk about being good Christians, or just being good people, yet we hide behind our so-called Christianity, and our own crazy theories and interpretations of the good book, and in the process, preach the kind of insanity and hatred that we’re supposed to eliminate from our lives? Yes, my aunt simply stole a few bucks from me; but at 20, to take from a child, and blatantly lie about it, then threaten physical harm when caught – what kind of ideals would she create for a child of her own? What if she’d been stealing from the company coffers? What if she’d been stealing from her own mother? The repercussions of such behavior are far-reaching.
My parents, after that incident, were thankfully very open with me. They explained that simply asking for something would suffice. As an only child, I never lacked for any material thing – I knew I simply had to ask. If I didn’t get something, I would know why it was unnecessary to have. But at all times, my parents were open and honest. That much I know – and that much I try to be every day of my life.
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