No better place for money than close to your heart. That makeshift, almost-fully-natural, form-flattering, extra pocket between the bosom and the bra where nobody better enter without clearly expressed consent…if they didn’t want either a cachetada or a chancletazo that is. That’s where all women kept their money safe. Right?
Safer than a safe, that’s where mi má always kept her change purse or loose dollar bills. When she needed the money en un dos por tres, she’d turn away and turn back and there it was. ¿Cuánto era otra vez? Nobody saw nothing and there went lo que quedo back in its place…for safekeeping, until she needed to use her money again. This was especially useful when we were riding public buses through a beat up, barren downtown Houston, full of homeless people roaming the streets and others just down on their luck looking for something, not sure what. We were always either on our way to the Clinica de los Amigos or the old Woolworth’s in downtown afterwards to pick up a couple of rolls of yarn for my mom’s latest knitting project. Usually a sweater, a scarf or a hat.
It was as if next to her heart the money was untouchable, invisible…unnoticeable.
Nobody ever actually tried to steal her purse – the one full of receipts, bus passes and nick-knacks for us kids – probably because they could tell just by looking at us that we were literally just a few rainy days of no work away from being in their shoes. And where was the sport in that?
So off we went, back and forth, my mother and her trail of mocosos, trying to find a way to make things easier on my dad.
At the McDonald’s or Burger King, again, en un dos por tres, ahi estaba el dinero, just enough to buy us un poquito for all of us to eat. Individual combo meals, that was an unheard of! Fortunately for us, eventually us kids figured out we could get more bang for our buck, and more food, at Burger King. One dollar was enough for a whopper and everyone knew a whopper was way bigger than a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder from McDonalds. So there we’d go, all the time, anytime we got hungry, out and about, we’d hunt down the king instead of the golden arches. A lesson learned on investing our money wisely.
Clink, Clink, Clink! When times were really tough, there on our dining table, piles of pennies pouring out of glass pickle jars, even some marmalade ones, our busy little hands stacking them in tens, stuffing one hundred of them in individual rolls of brown recycled paper marked $1. Afterwards at the bank we’d trade in all our pennies for cash. Those fancy money counters at the grocery store were convenient, but they always kept at least 10 percent of the cash we needed to pay off a bill or take care of something equally important. No se dejen engañar, contar el dinero es más trabajo…pero rinde más.
Money was important. It was necessary. Valuable. Even indispensable. But never more important than family, taking care of each other, stretching every dollar to get the most out of it, and pulling all our funds together when we really needed to. My mother never washed a pair of my father’s jeans without first going through every single pocket to check for loose change or bills. And she rarely ever came up empty handed. When it was just a quarter here, a nickel there, she’d hand it to us kids, and off we’d run, straight to Doña Pilar’s apartment to buy a handful of candy from her jumbo glass container of dulces.
Nowadays a combo meal is just the norm, not the exception. We hardly ever count pennies anymore, unless you count the times I dig through the jars of change looking for only shiny quarters, nickels and dimes, the golden arches and the king are avoided at all costs, and mi má has her own car, but I do always get a kick out of watching my wife go through all of my own jeans’ pockets, her jars of pennies in the closet, her turning away and turning back, en un dos por tres, to pull out her money from her chest, and the way she can always order enough food for a house full of people for pretty much next to nothing…or at least less than 20 bucks. A lo mejor es de herencia para las Latinas. No sé. But it sure is attractive.
What better proof of true love than knowing, as a Latina, you’re taking care of our money?