When I peer way far back into the dimness of the beginning of my life, I see a book titled “I Have a Penny”. I know it came from the library because there would be times it was not in our house, while I asked anxiously for its return, and when we moved just after I turned four it was gone from my life forever. But still I clearly remember the cartoonish figure of the little girl, the red tent of her coat, the circular scribble of dark curls down to where her shoulders would be, the simple round hat on her head and the penny safe in the purse clutched in her two hands as she strode out to spend what was hers. I liked it best when my mother changed the narration to “Stella Has a Penny.” The story I don’t remember at all; probably because the story was not the important part to me.
And then I was four years old, confronting my parents with the demand for “real money” because I didn’t want those bus tokens I thought they were trying to fob off on me, and receiving in response from my father a coin that satisfied my grasping little heart. I also remember hotfooting it down the hill at my first unsupervised moment, crossing the street and making two turns to get to the store on the corner where I planned to spend that coin clutched in my tightly closed hand. My memory shows me almost nothing else of that trip, only that the lady in the store was amused and my mother, when she showed up, was not.
Several years later I was reading the words “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am.”; about thirty five thousand times before I lost count, by demand of my youngest child. He was also the baby who had laughed at the sight of green food. He didn’t have to taste it; if it was green he wanted it. Green was the color of his drinking cup when he left his bottle behind. It was the color of all his favorite shirts during his total childhood. It even was, with the consent of his bride, the color of his wedding cake, overruling his mother-in-law, who was just grateful that it was a pale green and covered with an icing of white.
Then, just the other day I had in my grasp what I thought was a large amount of money. It wasn’t really, but I have discovered over the years that just like the little girl in the book I clutch money in my two hands as if it were a precious thing indeed, and despite hotfooting it down the hill every so often I cling to it like ivy to a wall. So, when I heard a voice saying “Let it go.” I punched my automatic “no” button; but for some reason it didn’t work.
I do have to say that now and then, as I’ve been in the process of growing old, that same voice has reminded me that just as the wall provides no food for the ivy, money is not my food; it is only one tool used to provide what I need. And I know that no matter how tightly ivy clings to the wall if it is cut away from the earth it will die, and if I choose money as my main resource I too will wither up and go dry. So in response to the voice, I pried those fingers back, scrubbed away the glue and let that money fly. It was done in a minute and though I felt some loss and just a touch of fear, most of all I felt the nourishment of my heart.
As for my son, if you ever want to make him happy show him something green. I can guarantee you that his eyes will light up and he will laugh; just one more proof that we are what we are and in some ways we never change.