I have just retired to my patio, as it is a warm late spring evening and also Victoria Day. I think I might have woken the neighbour’s toddler, whose bedroom window opens on to the sidewalk, but all I did was open and close my screen door. Get over it, toddler.
I am drinking a beer, a Fat Tug, which is a delightfully bitter and hoppy IPA brewed on Vancouver Island. It is one of my very favourite beers. It is also 7% abv so one is enough. I may get a tattoo that says that because the devilry of alcohol is such that after one, more seems like a good idea and by the time you’ve had two Fat Tugs it’s tomorrow and why is your breath so bad and who brought the donkey?
The children recently came into some gift money from their aunt and uncle, who visited for a couple days last week. The money received nearly doubled Arlo’s stash of money that he was saving for an unspecified something, so yesterday he decided he wanted to buy a Nerf gun. Not just any Nerf gun: the Retaliator, the same gun his friend and neighbour has. He found it this morning at Wal-Mart for $32.92 and when I said, whoa! that’s a lotta money! he said, yes, but it’s worth it.
It’s worth it because he is nearly nine years old and there is no adult logic to be applied to this situation. Money is for spending, and Nerf guns are for having, and it’s not my money is it. Nope. Ever observant, he said, you don’t think I should buy this, do you? And ever mindful I replied, nope but I won’t stop you.
Yesterday, faced with a similar cash influx, as well as a five dollar gift card for a local candy store, Eli bought himself 500g of Jelly Belly Gourmet jellybeans. And two packs of Hi-Chew. Grand total of that expenditure: $17 (only $12 real money, $5 for the gift card) Did I want him to spend $17 on candy? I did not. Is it the most ridiculous thing in the world? Quite possibly.
When I was ten years old we went to Italy to visit my grandmother and on the way back we stopped in Montreal or Toronto or possibly both to visit more of my dad’s family. My aunt gave me $20. This was 30 years ago. I don’t think there were candy stores back then. I certainly didn’t give a shit about Nerf guns. I went directly to the mall (I think we were in Scarborough?) found Music World (or A&A Records and Tapes) and bought my first cassette tape: Olivia Newton John’s Greatest Hits. It cost the entire twenty dollars. It was worth it. I had absolutely no regrets.
Still don’t. Wish I knew where the tape was. Probably in a box. Probably somewhere in my house, knowing me.
A while ago — years? — we started our kids on allowance. We ask that they divide their allowance into savings, sharing (charity), planned spending (things you’re saving up for) and mad money. Being us, we don’t enforce the planned spending as much as we could, (“I totally plannnnnned to buy these Pokemon cards…just a minute ago?”) but the savings and the sharing are untouched. And our kids understand money. They understand the value of a dollar; how much I get paid, how much goes to daycare and car expenses, etc. They don’t get everything they want, not by a long shot. Sometimes they get unexpected treats, like an ice cream cone for the walk home from daycare, but more often I say no to their ever-more outrageous requests.
Sometimes, though, money appears in your hand for no good reason and yes, the smart thing, the adult thing to do, would be to save it, but the human thing to do is to want to turn it into something that gives you pleasure. Maybe that thing will only give you pleasure for an hour. Maybe it will give you pleasure for a lifetime. I don’t feel like it’s something I should lecture about. The only way to learn which things are good investments and which bum is by experience.
This afternoon, Eli ate a lot of jelly beans. I didn’t pour them into a bowl for him the way we did yesterday. He held the bag and he ate them and ate them. He also ate dinner. Then he had a baseball game. Then we came home and he had a bowl of cereal, which gave him a stomachache.
How is my foreshadowing? Is it good?
After brushing his teeth, he started to cry. I feel like I’m going to barf, he wept. Eli can really weep about barf and he’s usually right. Arlo got out of the room. Eli barfed. Three times with increasing violence.
When my kids barf I do a little flowchart in my head. Barf: food poisoning or virus? Oh god I hope it’s not a virus. I’ll have to take tomorrow off work. We’ll all be sick. There goes the rest of May. Wow it’s very violent vomit. What did he eat today? Cereal. Before that. Jelly beans. Before that. Cheese toast. Before that. JELLY BEANS.
As the smell of jelly beans permeated the room — no, they were not even semi-digested — Eli started to wipe off his mouth with his sleeve. I feel way better, he said. Oh good, I said. Way too many jelly beans today, he said. I think so, I said.
And then, feeling a lot like the lowest clown on the clown totem pole, cleaning up the clown car, I mopped up a lot of pink, sweet vomit, and thought fondly of the beer in the fridge downstairs.
Full circle! Happy Victoria Day!