Sunday, September 27, 2009

Money (not what you think)

One of my early memories is of staying home from school sick, counting my money. I took it out of its container -- a round pink suitcase that was perhaps a doll's vanity case -- and arranged it into little piles on my bed, counting the coins with great satisfaction. The shiney round nickels were especially solid and satisfying.

I hadn't thought of this in years, until yesterday when I was counting my babysitting money. I remembered the clicking sound of those nickels and the feeling of miserly pleasure the stacks gave me. It's a feeling I hadn't had since then.

For soon after I had counted my money, my mother opened a savings account for me: $14 and something cents. I felt a pang of vivid LOSS -- to me, that money was gone. I had a blue savings book, with little stamped numbers like library due-date stamps whenever I put money into it --but it didn't ever seem like real money. Those stacks of coins did. (I learned just the opposite of what my mother, a careful saver herself, was trying to teach me!)

Maybe one reason I'm saving now (after I counted my babysitting money I walked to the bank to deposit almost all of it, with a GREAT feeling of satisfaction and pride!) is that I get paid in cash. When I spend or save cash, it's very obvious that I'm spending or saving -- when I used credit cards, especially when clicking online, it wasn't.

For most of my life, I've been irresponsible with money, spending it freely when I had it and even (until I stopped having credit cards) when I didn't. There is such a feeling of relief and solid satisfaction in living within my means that I want to write something about it. I'm not sure what -- maybe this blog post is enough! But I'm also thinking about writing a picture book about money, showing what it is (more complicated than it seems: it doesn't exist unless a lot of people believe in it) and trying to make it real for kids -- and I guess myself. When you think about it, what IS money? I think it's unreal to a lot of people besides me: and when it stops seeming real to people who control large sums, we all get into a big mess. But the financial meltdown won't be in the kids' book -- except maybe in a silly, exaggerated way.

In the meantime, I'll keep counting those strange green pieces of paper and putting them into the bank, thinking about this book, too....and Grace-of-Green-Gables, I know you will say "Finish Cassy first!" and I will (I'm up to page 103!) but I can write this pretty quickly, I think, once I decide what I want to say.

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