Friday, February 27, 2009

Mom Was Nobody's Fool

My mom was one of the most practical people I've ever known. She had a way of sizing things up and making the most complicated things simple. She had what you would call a "no nonsense" personality. She didn't believe in showing affection, except to her grandchildren when they were babies. She wasn't what you would call sentimental, although it brought her great joy to talk about the "old days". She was quick to laugh but I never heard her tell a joke. She was wise in the ways of the world. You couldn't put much over on her.

Mom was not the only advice-giver in my life but her words are the ones I remember best. She was fond of sayings... "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.", "Save your pennies for a rainy day.", "Better to be safe than sorry.", and "Why fight it? It's bigger than both of us." (referring to sleep). She practiced what she preached too.

Mom was quite the skeptic when it came to "good deals". She wouldn't hesitate to shop around and take her time in decision making. I remember driving from store to store to comparison shop for Christmas gifts, furniture, and household goods. Somehow it all worked out too. I don't remember an item ever being sold out before we could get back to buy it. When salesmen came to the door peddling encyclopedias, portraits, or insurance, she was quick to tell them no and shut the door. Then she'd turn to me and tell me how she could buy encyclopedias at the grocery store for less (and she did buy a set there), or use her own camera for picture taking for a fraction of the cost (if only she'd taken a family portrait with that camera!), and she had enough insurance thank you very much!

My mom was a saver too. Oh could she save money! I wouldn't call my mom cheap. She'd pay her fair share without complaint. But when it came to discretionary money, she thought twice before she'd part with her pennies. She was good at finding ways of squirreling away money as well. I remember one time in particular, back in late 1970s or early 1980s. Gold jewelry was very fashionable and being of modest means she only had a couple pieces. She decided to save up her coins in a big plastic jar and buy herself a nice piece of jewelry with whatever money she had in there. Whenever she'd get change at the grocery store, the pharmacy, or where ever, she'd come home and put it in her jar (only silver coins, not pennies).

Every once in a while she'd ask me how much I though she had in the jar. I'd take a guess but we never counted it out to see if I was right. Eventually she filled it up. I don't have any idea how long it took. Then one day I noticed that she had a pretty new sapphire ring on her hand. I asked where she got it and she said it was what she bought with the coins she'd been saving up! Here's a picture of that ring. I have her receipt and appraisal for the ring around here somewhere. If I was a little more organized I'd be able to put my hands on it, LOL! If memory serves me correctly she paid in the neighborhood of $380 for the ring. Of course she bought it on sale, and of course she waited for a rainy day to go shopping to buy it! Whenever I put that ring on I remember how she saved for it.

When I was leaving the house to go out with my friends my mom was fond of saying, "Don't forget to lock the car doors. It's better to be safe than sorry". When I'd start cooking something in the kitchen she'd come up to me with an apron, "Put this on. Better to be safe than sorry". Mom was a firm believer in being prepared. She didn't carry a large purse but it was amazing what she was able to carry in the ones she had.

When I was a child, my mom used to say, "Why fight it? It's bigger than both of us." when it was bedtime. You know how kids always want to put off bedtime? Well, that was her way of encouraging me to head for bed. She would usually pipe up with that comment by 10:00pm and by 10:30pm she'd head off for bed with me or without me. I usually trudged off right behind her without an argument. I don't remember ever arguing about bedtime.

My mom's practical personality was a steadying influence on my brothers and I. She rarely got rattled over anything. Her calm, good sense prevailed. Even as adults, my brothers and I would ask for her advice. I can't tell you how many times I've thought of her in these difficult economic times. She grew up during the Great Depression and it left a lasting impression on her. I know what she would say to those who got in over their heads with mortgages they couldn't really afford... "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is." To those who lost a good share of their investments in the stock market... "Save your pennies for a rainy day." To those trying to decide if they should pull money out of the bank to invest in the stock market she'd say, "Better to be safe than sorry". And to those suffering from the stress of it all she'd suggest a nap, "Why fight it? It's bigger than both of us."