The Slow-Cooked Sentence

A penny for your thoughts

Rachael Conlin Levy
Photo courtesy of Daniel Y. Go

“The memory manages to be found, like a dollar bill crinkled up in the pocket of old clothes. She fondles this memory a moment, a few seconds’ worth, no more.”

I love the above sentence written by Laura Valeri in “Furniture,” published in Glimmer Train‘s, Summer 2008 edition, and was compelled to document a memory-in-the-making involving my children and money:

For every year my children have lived, they receive a quarter in allowance. This means my oldest, at age 9, gets $2.25 a week — the value of a day’s hot lunch at school, a pittance in a world where her classmates own cell phones, but (and I shrug here) it’s all a large family can afford on one income. My daughter would be quick to point out that the “week” part of the above sentence is “weak,” and I have to agree. Her father and I have been lax in filling their small hands with their even smaller allowances, and this may have contributed to their different attitudes toward money. I have a:

  1. Hunter — Eyes peeled for pennies on the floor and dollars behind the couch. Regularly checks the insides of washing machine for wayward change.
  2. Hoarder — Stashes money not only in the piggy bank, but also the bottom of the underwear drawer or the spare book. (When asked how this money would be retrieved, I was given an elaborate answer involving monetary amount equating to page number and letters in the title of the book.)
  3. Habitual Forgetter — Money rarely makes it to the bank. Usually relies on the goodwill of others for any spending.

The wails and shrieks that occasionally ricochet off the walls often have to do with money: Who stole it? Where is it? And why isn’t it here on the floor where it was left six days ago? The yells are followed by heavy, angry footsteps thumping down stairs to report the infraction and demand that I do something. For awhile I tried, but their memories are tangled balls of string and the more I pulled, the more frustrated and tense we all became. So, now I hold out my hand, they turn over the disputed dollar (which is placed high upon a kitchen shelf for safety), and I tell them to come back when they’ve worked it out. Within a half-hour they usually return to report their resolution and ask for the money. Or the dollar sits on the shelf, forgotten, until I put it in my pocket and recycle it a week later as allowance.

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