Monday, January 25, 2010

The Cost of Water

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. If turnips were watches, I’d wear one by my side. If ‘ifs’ and ‘ans’ were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers.” I love this nursery rhyme. It’s kind of like a child’s way of saying, “If I had a dollar for every time I (fill in the blank), I’d be rich.”

If I had a dollar for every dollar I wasted when the economy wasn’t so bad, I might have a few to spare right now. I don’t like telling the kids, “Not right now, we don’t have the money for that”, but sometimes it’s a good thing. This economy has made a lot of us get back to the very basics of life: food, shelter, family. We have those things, and for that I am extremely grateful.

We have added the people of Haiti to our prayers. Joy has been brainstorming about ways to help them. Even if her plans never come to fruition, at least she is thinking about being gracious and giving to others. It’s important to realize, at any age, that no matter how bad off you are, someone somewhere is worse off than you and you should be grateful for the things you have.

When the Editor and I were little, our family did not have a lot of money. We would have had more, but Gigi and the Norwegian sent us to private school, so that significantly decreased the cash flow in our home. Our school also had a dress code. We had to wear dresses every day of the week, except certain designated Fridays. Those days we could wear pants, but not blue jeans. Gigi sewed some of our dresses. We got some at discount stores. We got some at the thrift store, some were hand-me-downs. We got a special dress with a pair of “new school shoes” for the first day of school. This dress was usually the dress we wore for our school pictures. That dress was a big deal. The shopping trip for the First Day of School Dress was also a big deal. I, however, have never been a big fan of shopping.

One shopping trip stands out above all others. I might be confusing this trip with the First Day of School Dress shopping trip, but it was significant nevertheless. We were at one of those department stores that had a little café in it. The Editor and I were getting tired and no doubt cranky and whiney. Gigi was probably getting tired of hearing us being cranky and whiney. And so the unusual happened—Gigi found some extra money for the Editor and me to go to the café for an ice cream sundae. Suddenly, miraculously, we were not tired, cranky or whiney any more. We were ecstatic. We loved going out to eat—it was a special occasion treat. We loved ice cream and hardly ever ate sundaes. After specific directions from Gigi to stay at the table, to eat our ice cream, and not to move until she came back, we were left to savor the hot fudge sundae. Gigi had also left us the money to pay for the sundae and money to tip the waitress. It was an exact amount. The Editor knew what to do—she was older and knew about these things.

And so it was, two little girls at a department store café, sitting across the table from one another, enjoying a hot fudge sundae, trying to pretend that we did stuff like that all the time. And we ate, and chatted like old friends over this sweet treat, spoons dipping into the gooey goodness, loving every bite. But then we realized that we had miscalculated our bites—we were out of vanilla ice cream, but there was still a considerable amount of fudge. And we never got to have this kind of treat, at a department store café, no less, so we determined that we would eat it—every last bite. The experience lost some of the excitement and joy with each sickly sweet bite we took. But then, an idea! Water! Water would make it less sweet. But, as hard as we had tried to pretend that we knew what we were doing, we didn’t. We wanted to “order” some water, but we didn’t know how much it would cost. And then the Editor counted out the money again and we only had enough to pay for the sundae and to tip the waitress. We couldn’t take any money from that or we would be short. We couldn’t short the waitress, that would be rude. And we couldn’t waste the treat. And we didn’t know when Gigi would return. And we didn’t want to make her feel bad by not eating it all or acting like we didn’t love it or asking for something more than what we had already gotten. So we gagged down every last bite of the now too-sweet concoction.

To this day we get a good laugh about our naïveté. (Gigi got us some water when she returned… and enlightened us on the fact that water does NOT cost anything.)

But, there is something to be said for not getting everything your little heart desires the moment you desire it. (No, I am not referring to the water.) That sundae was momentous in our little lives because it was so rare. Our First Day of School Dresses were so special because we didn’t have a closet full of them. Our new school shoes were cherished because they were something to look forward to every year.

So, if I had a dollar for every dollar I wasted when times were better, I would use the money for the necessities and save the rest of it for a rainy day…and an occasional sundae. (But not for water to go with it, because the last I checked, a glass of water at a restaurant is still doesn’t cost anything. So I guess it is true—the best things in life are free!)

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

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