of money and guilt and love again

Mar 4, 2008

1000 kronen
Originally uploaded by zen
It's hard to remember the murderous pressure of 3rd grade, but i do recall the collective exhalation of 25 9-year olds when they saw i had had brought a packet full of foreign paper money for show-and-tell. Oh my! Of course i knew nothing about the money and what countries they were from until just before looking at each one, and some i'm sure i made up. But boy-oh-boy did it wow them! I wouldn't pass the envelope around but put splayed out the money on the desk next to the teacher and let the other kids ooh and ahh over the watchful eye of the her and i.

You see, to act the hero for the day i had stolen that money from my mom's sewing machine where she had shown me once in confidence and with great reverence. Of course i intended to return it - it could only buy so much 3rd-grade love and i knew it was wrong to take. But i would have it back in the sewing machine before mom even came home from work and she wouldn't even miss it. Wouldn't she?

The plans got a bit twisted up when on the way home from school, my contraband now burning sinfully in my pocket, i realized it was one of the days i went to the babysitters instead of directly home. No problem, i could still get it in the house before mom knew anything.

Buy my mom was crafty. Or perhaps i wasn't as bold as i was in my kid's imagination. Come time to bring the packet of money in the house and i lost my nerve. I stuck the packet in the crook of the pine tree out front. It was a heavy landscape pine that had branches that only little kids could find and a perfect little place to hold the money until i could see that the coast was clear and would replace it back in the sewing machine.

Except that the mind of little zen was as easily distracted then as it is now. And i played with my cars or something and completely forgot about the little packet of money hidden in the pine tree. For days, weeks. Through rain and wind until Mom discovered a single weathered bill in the front yard! Imagine her luck! She would add it to her already large collection of ... uh oh!

The murderous pressure of 3rd grade acceptance was nothing compared to the Spanish Inquisition of an irate mother. What had i done? Where was the rest of the money? Why would i do such a thing? I was deep in dog-dirt on this one because the packet had fallen apart and there was only a few tattered bills at the base of the tree. Double-uh-oh.

For whatever reason it was a rare treat night of getting to go to McDonalds, and i had blown it. I deserved a whipping, but mom couldn't get over her loss long enough to mete out a full punishment. So on the way to Mcdonalds, i would huddle in the back of the car behind the driver's side and fall victim to the angry arm of frustration and anger every time Mom thought about her loss. She didn't really slap me or hit me so much as just grab at me in a sort of futile rage. And not only would i have deserved a good whalloping, but i believe it was a better lesson to see how much it upset my mother and caused her to cry. Stealing wasn't wrong because it gave something to you that wasn't yours, it was wrong because it hurt people when they lost those things.

This month my mom wrote me about the incident from her point of view and it made me feel proud that i learned the lesson and had such a wonderful mother:


My last few years in high school were during the Korean War. My boyfriend, Ron (who would become my dad - zen), was off in the service as were most of his High School friends. I loved to write letters to the “boys” and would come home each school day at lunchtime and delight in receiving a letter – be it from my boyfriend or one of he other guys who would write to me. Some were Marines fighting on the lines directly in Korea, some were in the Navy and some were in the Pacific, others were Airmen.

Occasionally one GI would send me a dollar bill from a foreign country that I had never heard of before. I collected these bills in a small envelope and when I didn’t receive a letter, I would check out the bills on which had printed their names. They had no monetary value to me. They were just memories. Some of the GI’s were Ron’s friends, some were just friends of friends who had no one to write to them. I was their connection back in the “States”.

After Christmas of 1953, Ron and I got married and immediately after the wedding we left for Kansas where he was attending Wichita University. Ron had a small coupe so my personal possessions were limited to one suitcase of clothes, my sewing machine, a box of recipe cards, a cookbook and a small white envelope of foreign dollar bills.

When you took the envelope for “Show and Tell” it was not the contents that got lost, it was a part of my past. Granted, it was well time for me to let go of the past but sometimes that is hard to do. I regret hitting you all the way to McDonalds. Sometimes we place our feelings and anger over what really matters to us. My loss was pale in comparison to the wonderful, caring son I had and probably did not appreciate at that time. You have grown into a very special man and words can’t explain how proud I am of you.




Great story! You have led such an interesting life - I swear! I am thinking a book of zen's memiors should be coming to a bookstore nearby. And your sweet little mama! She is so precious. She really cares for you :)

Jessica said...
March 4, 2008 at 6:37 PM  

oops - memoirs

Jessica said...
March 4, 2008 at 6:38 PM  

zen...I remember you telling me this story. The letter from your mother was wonderful.

This story reminds me of how my dad disciplined my brother and me when we would fight in the back seat of the car. He would reach his long arm in between us an swing back and forth hitting both of us just enough so we'd get the message. He didn't have to do it very often! LOL


Anonymous said...
March 9, 2008 at 7:41 PM  
oakleyses said...
July 5, 2016 at 8:11 PM  
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