These days, many children get a weekly allowance. Some receive an allowance for doing chores. Some receive an allowance "just because."
In my day, I didn't get an allowance. I don't know if it was because my dad was just a miserly fellow, or maybe it was because I was the fifth of five boys. Maybe by the time I came along, my parents were tired of all that. Huh, I suppose I should ask my brothers about that one.
At any rate, I got no allowance. For the most part, if I wanted a quarter for a soda or a dollar to see a movie, yeah, those were the prices back in the "Time of the Ancients", I had to ask. Sometimes I got it, and sometimes I got a lecture. You know, the classic, "When I was your age?" type of story.
Yet, there was one thing I could do to earn money; I could pick up pins. My mom had converted the old nursery in the house into a sewing room. She had her sewing machine by the window, a table between it and the door, blocking the door into the bedroom, and a rack for hanging clothes on the other side of the room. For the most part, I stayed out of the place. After all, it was all about sewing, and that was a "girlie activity"; it wasn't something with which any self-respecting boy would concern himself.
I did rather like going in to play with her pincushion; I could always find a game to invent with it. The pins were circuits in my supercomputer, cells in an alien brain, buttons on my spaceship's control panel, and so on.
Yeah, I know a fertile imagination.
Yet, there was one instance where I did go in her sewing room: to pick up her pins. In the course of her work, she invariably dropped many pins. So, every once in a while, she'd give me a quarter to pick up all of her pins and put them away. I was very good at getting into every nook and cranny of that room, and finding every pin. I'd even get down on my hands and knees and use one pin to work the pins that had fallen in the cracks in the floor out. Sometimes, my mom was truly amazed at how many pins I found!
The work took a while, especially when I ran into a particularly tough bunch of pins stuck between the wooden floor panels. Yet, I never minded, and I was always happy to get that quarter. The soda or candy bar I bought with it seemed especially good!
Of course, time marches on; boys grow into men, homes get sold, and families move on. My mom hasn't sewn much in the last few years, she's now pushing 85, and she doesn't have a sewing room any more. Just recently, she came to visit, and we had a good time playing games, talking, and sharing fine food. At one point, she handed me some money to help pay for gas, and I couldn't help but think back to that old sewing room.
I truly appreciated the gesture, and the amount was far more than what I earned picking up pins. Yet, somehow, I didn't want it. Sitting with her in the car, cruising on down the highway, I saw to what extent time had taken its toll on her. The years had been kind; yet, I had to wonder how many more visits we would have. At that moment, I'd have traded any amount of money if I could just go back and pick up those pins one more time.
Sometimes, a quarter from your mom for a job well done is the most precious reward a man, a child, a son, can get.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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