Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wallets and Understanding My Father

My paternal grandmother - rest her soul - hoarded wallets. When she died, she left behind a remarkably large number of new, never used wallets, many still with tags on. There were billfolds in all colors, and change purses galore. Some were in okay condition, but most of them were sort of musty and crackly dry from being stored in an place that had no air conditioning for years and years and years. My theory is that she bought them, put them away and then forgot she had bought them. Her daily all day drink of choice, after all, was Vodka and Tang.

After my grandmother died, my dad took each and every wallet and put it in a box in our house. He was a child of the depression and could not abide waste of any kind. For years afterward - and I mean years - every time my mother or one of my two sisters or I would even mention getting a new wallet, my dad would drag out the box of musty wallets dating back to the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70's and try to force them upon us. We were not allowed to purchase any new wallets - at least not with my dad being aware of it. It got to be kind of a joke between my sisters and me over the years. I really thought my dad was being unreasonable. Those wallets were old, dried up and not very functional. New with tags or not...they were way past prime. Or, at least that was how I saw it. Looking back, I allow that there were probably many that were okay and functional.

The other day, when the markets were tumbling down, down, down, and Chris and I had been having talks about the possible depression that might occur, I was in the basement looking for something. While rummaging, I came across several wallets in perfectly fine condition in one of my daughter's boxes. I won't mention her name in order to protect Katelyn.

Immediately, I began to channel my dad. What were these perfectly fine wallets doing in this box rotting away in the basement? Why weren't they being used? I became indignant remembering my recent trip to NY during which Kate mentioned that she wanted to buy a nice new wallet. A new wallet?!!! When there were a few perfectly good ones right here for free? Shameful.

Those thoughts flashed through my mind without one thought of my dad. Then, a moment later, I remembered his wallet mania and I began to laugh. It was the very first time I understood his frugality on more than a mental level. I really got it. Faced with the possibility that the bottom could drop out of our financial system, I started to think about everything differently and the wallets were the symbol of all of it. Today, I don't think that the bottom will drop out, but I allow that it might happen. Nothing is certain and I don't think anyone can agree on how bad it will get before it gets better. I tend to be an optimist and I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed.

And, I'll send Kate those wallets.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful posts this week. Bloomingtongirl is back! And you have a lovely family.


Anonymous said...

yes, great posts this week! so glad the play is finished and you can share your words with us.

i had a big vodka and koolaid flashback. cheers! it's so versatile, it goes with everything -- vodka, of course, not koolaid.

did your grandma keep money in all her wallets? my nana had loads of purses and things and there was always at least a penny in each one of them, to keep the money coming.

again, great posts.