Penny for your thoughts

>>  Tuesday, September 17, 2019

When I was about 9 years old I came out of primary school and my friends were buying ice-creams at the pokey man who always parked outside at going home time. I was a penny short. I don’t recall if I knew I was a penny short before I asked for an ice-cream or after he gave it to me but I do recall him saying I could owe him a penny.

A penny then wasn’t to be sniffed at. You could still buy penny sweets. 2 biscuits at break time were 1p. A penny found was a biscuit-mine!

So I had this heavy debt hanging over me and my memory then was as good as it is now. I never had that penny coming out of school. I’d slink past the van feeling like he was watching and judging me. I daren’t tell my parents I was ‘in debt’ because of the lecture I’d have gotten about why I’d taken an ice-cream I couldn’t afford. So I silently carried the guilt.

The back story was we had a fair share of money worries at home due to my father's illness and that if he didn’t work he didn’t get paid. I knew not to open the door to the milkman wanting his money and to stay out of sight of the butcher who tied the Sunday meat to the back door handle.

Are our characters formed by these experiences? Or do these experiences affect us differently because of our inherent characters? Whichever, I’ve carried this debt of guilt now for 40 years and can’t not recall if whenever I see an ice-cream van.

On the upside I don’t ‘do’ debt now. I attribute that to my grandmother’s advice when I bought my first house. She showed me the accounts book she kept. Money in from her housekeeping and money out. She said you can have a mortgage and ‘one on the knock’ and anything else if you can’t afford it then you don’t have it. Sage advice I’ve stuck to. But I’ve been lucky to always have work.

I followed an ice-cream van today whilst driving along. And thought, yet again, about that penny. As that sinking feeling washed through me I wondered how people manage that have payday loans to feed their families. Always borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

Even when I’ve got money in my account I still worry about money, my parents dutifully handed that ‘life skill’ down. I’ll never be able to spend it wantonly without the side serving of guilt.

And on that note, I’ve got a new car. Not brand spanking new obviously, but new to me. And what’s worse is it’s the first time I’ve ever had a car that I didn’t need. I wanted it. My old car was still running fine. It was a good car. Cheap to run. But I coveted a ‘nicer’ car and HWMBO bought it for me. He put the keys in my hand and said ‘happy birthday’.

I’m still struggling to come to terms with being so valued, such generosity and it’s a car I didn’t ‘need’ that will have higher running costs. I’m getting waves of ‘the penny’. It’s odd how it can be so hard to let go of something so small isn’t it.


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