Saturday, 17 May 2008
what's in YOUR closet?
"Holding out on me are ya? Why I oughta...."
My first thought, as I dragged the 50 lb sack of pennies out of Dad's closet.
"I'm rich!" The bag tore under the weight of the loot, spilling it's contents all over the floor. "My cup runneth over!" I quickly scraped the pennies off the floor and shoved the bag back in it's hiding place.
My parents and I recently decided that the 22 year old wall to wall carpet on the upper level of their home had to go. It was way overdue. Actually, my dad couldn't have cared less. His motto? 'Don't get me involved'. Dad is a laid back dude; an intelligent man who is perfectly content to stick it out in his room and let the chips fall where they may. If it ain't broke, don't call the guy'. While he has always been the one to mow the lawn and trim up the hedges, he is not at all interested in internal affairs and leaves the home improvements to my mother. Mom gripes about his lack of participation, and usually just goes ahead with her plans. They have a guy for everything so it all works out. My mother has no idea how miserable it could have been had she married a control freak or worse, a man who is truly lazy, but finds the time to write and publish a book about it.
Dad is just the kind of guy who likes to enjoy his life and not get caught up with appearances. At 79 and 8 months, the man has earned the right not to have to be bothered with home improvements. Especially when you can just call a guy. A natural peacemaker, he will go along Mom's brilliant ideas
as long as it makes her happy. I find this kind of personality type a joy to work with. They are usually willing to foot the bill, and enthusiastic after the project is finished.
The folks had planned a trip to Delaware this weekend. The annual Midlantic Competition for the SPEBSQSA. Barbershop Harmony. Singing Barbershop is Dad's main thing, especially since his back pain has kept Dad from golfing for the past 6 months.
'THE FOUR PENNIES'
This weekend is the perfect time to get it done. I had ripped out the rugs last weekend and in the process needed to get into his closet. Not something I am comfortable with. While I have been falsely accused of 'snooping', fact is, I'm not at all at ease with other people's drawers and closets. Even when the snooping is called for, I am somewhat uncomfortable pawing around. You just never know what you're going to find. Seriously.
I have always felt a certain taboo when it came to my parents bedroom(s). Anyone's bedroom. It's an acute awareness of entering into some else's private domain. There is a certain sense of the sacred, a mix of awe and fear, an idiosyncrasy which I am happy to say is on the healthier side of the boundary issues. Unlike George Costanza, I prefer not to become too familiar with other people's bedrooms/stuff, especially that of my parents. That said, I was well into the back of his closet, feeling along the floor, trying to move things out of the way in order to make space for some shelving. That's when I hit upon the sack of spare change. That was last weekend. Yesterday, I had slept over in order to get as much time up there as possible. Dad, Ant (24, nephew) and I were sitting around talking...
Dad: You've got some mail in there. Something from the
Me: Probably the letter about the stimulus.
(opening the envelope). Says here, I should get it on May 9. What is it May 16. Hmm.. No check here. Maybe it was directly deposited into my account.
Ant: They spent millions on paper and postage for those letters. I'd rather they added the 41 cents to my check.
Dad: Did you give them your bank information?
Me: No but they have it already. You know, the IRS.
Anthony: Did you have your tax return directly deposited into your bank account?
Anthony: Then they'll do the same with your check.
Me: Did you get yours, Dad?
Dad: Not yet. I didn't have direct deposit with my tax. I want the check in my hands.
Me: You need to see it first.
Dad: That's right.I want to take it to the bank myself.
Me: I used to be that way. You know, Dad, I am starting to think you are the kind of guy who'd put his money in a pillow case.
Dad: I might.
Gina: No, you ARE that kind of guy! Ahem...the stash up your closet?
Dad: Oh yeah... I had forgotten about them. Do you know where those pennies came from?
Me: Years and years of dumping them out of your sock drawer?
Dad: Yeah. I just figured that no one uses pennies. I'd throw them in the top drawer. they'd get to be too heavy and I would pour them into the bag.
Elena discovered Dad's pennies way back in early 70s. She must have been looking to borrow a pair of socks. You see, Dad's ALWAYS got tons of black or navy nylon socks. Paired or loose, the odds of finding a match were much higher than digging though the sock basket every morning. In a house with 5 kids, mom was not about to sort and partner socks. To make her life bearable, she'd toss em right out of the dryer into a large picnic/sock basket. Unisex sock basket. At least the girls could wear the tube socks.
Dad's were the only socks that got to stay in a drawer since he was the big man. The Dad. The rest of us monkeys had the sock basket, and you'd have to get there pretty early in the morning to be guaranteed your favorite tube socks. Otherwise, it was slim pickins. A mismatch for me could wreck my whole self concept for that day.
Blown out, dingy and matchelss singles only added to bulk and slowed the hunt. Why were they permitted to remain? Could we just thin out and face out dim prospects without the confusion?
Sure, on in a while we would need a single sock for a craft or puppet, which was the only hope for the singles. Every possible color and style of Tuber was thrown in for the ultimate in hysterics as time drew near to leave for school. Tormenting is what it was. When faced with the dilemma of color vs number of stripes...
I remember settling for a two and three navy striper to the matching red stripe. Ronald McDonald ruined red tube socks for me. Imagine the tube sock with Earth shoes.
Can we talk? I'm tired of being last to the sock basket. tired...so tired.
Dear God, Please help us with the sock situation here. Dear Santa, pleaaaaase bring decent socks. Sure enough, More tube socks would come pouring in. How the boys could ruin those things with their sweaty filthy feet. I need my own sock drawer, Mom. It's affecting my schoolwork. Eventually, my mom's hand was moved by the overabundance of unwearables, and she did away with the communal system. Or maybe we just all moved out. To this day, I struggle with finding matching pairs and am tempted to throw them all out and start fresh with one style per drawer. Imagine the time and frustration that would save the world. Simplify.
I don't know if she was just desperate for a comfortable and quick solution to the morning sock hunt, but it seemed that my elder sister had no fear of the big man. I will have to ask her about that. To me, helping yourself to a pair of Dad's socks is just taboo. Not even considering the gender issues most young girls would have with manly sock. Your father's socks. As it were my other sister and i have this long running joke about wearing your father's belt to the prom. I think we were 9 and 13 respectively when we created the "poor soul" character. It was a coping mechanism I believe.
But wearing my dad's socks didn't seem to phase the eldest child. maybe they were just more comfortable and fit with her shoe style. They certainly blended better than the white socks with whatever she was wearing at the time. No one was looking. They matched. Not like she was wearing them as knee highs which would have been hysterical. I just think need to match outweighed the potential consequences of getting caught gold toed in black nylon. Git em off. Something She probably never considered. Seemed to me the girl and I were cut from a different cloth. She didn't run like a bat out of hell, never had that deer in the headlight expression. She was and still is generally calm, when she's not laughing hysterically, deliberate, and always extremely artistic. Artistic talent is a gift which requires a sense of freedom and daring. My sister has those qualities, as well as a certain coolness. Maybe it was because she was wearing Dad's socks.
I think she was a size 9 or 10 shoe. Flat feet, like dad. Maybe there was a sense of entitlement on account of the flat feet. The bond of a similiar footprint in the sand. Hmm... After losing her baby chub, my sister grew into what I can only describe as a thorough bred. Legs like a woman GI Joe. Beautiful face and Farah Fawcett bangs. Physically fit strong willed and defiant. Capable of rendering a good pounding if you caught her on a bad day. I tried to keep her as a friend mostly, but as hormones kicked in, I would, from time to time, face the Betty Joe Fist side of my sister.
Thinking back, I guess my sister was no stranger to exploration of the outer limits. I figure, by the size of me, it must have been in late 60s that she had her first look-see into the drawer. She must have been no more than 10. Maybe 8. I would have been 7. We roomed together and she confided things in me in late night season. As long as I could remember, we would have conversations in the dark, until we fell asleep. When she finally got her own room, as a teen, the quality of our relationship deteriorated and with that the innocence of first times. But thinking back, we were still rooming together the day she discovered Dad's pennies...I remember it clearly. she HAD to tell me about it. Swore me to secrecy. It went sort of this way. She whispered it in my ear-
"Pssst....I have to show you something but don't tell. Promise".
My eyes would bug out at anything good.
"What!? What did you do?"
She was always doing something.
"Sshhhh. Gina, Listen.( closing our bedroom door).
" Dad has all kinds of pennies in his sock drawer."
" Really? How do you know? Did you go IN there?"
" You went into Dad's drawer?!"
" I was just curious."
" You could get in BIG TROUBLE for that. OMGosh. I can't believe you did that.
I want to see them too."
" OK, be quiet. Make sure the coast is clear. You look out."
" Ok, all clear, Come on in." ]
She led me into their room and slid the left hand top drawer open and pulled out a sock stuffed with pennies.
I gasped. "Oh My Gosh. Put it down. What if he comes? "
"Shh!" ( hand over my mouth)
(whispering) " Are there more?"
" Yes. Look..hurry." She moved aside while I reached my hand up and over, into the drawer, feeling around.
"There's tons of 'em! Where does he get em all from?...I have to see this."
I remember having to get a chair to look into the bottom of the shallow sock drawer.
The drawer on the right was more of a junk drawer. Full of watches and lighters and screws, odds and ends. We were just so excited over the number of pennies Dad had in that drawer. A lot of ice cream money. A LOT. I don't think we ever saw more than a dollar in silver, and usually a nickel and penny for milk each day. All of these pennies together was just an awesome sight. On top of the dresser was the St. Joseph statue, holding the baby Jesus. I remember feeling a church like aura about their room. Rosary beads mounted on the wall. That was style of the average Catholic couple back then. The bedroom WAS very holy and dignified place. You DON'T just go in there and touch people's stuff. I was the voice of reason. Just don't ever take them. Leave them right there! He'll know if you touch them. Lets just get out of here! I don't like sneaking around! Don't wanna get in trouble! I remember her sliding the drawer closed with that serious excited look on her face. Let's get out of here...i don't feel right.
See? There's that taboo thing. Off Limits. Breaking and entering. A crime scene. There were things that we children did not need to know about the adult bedroom; Discoveries that could be dangerous to our sensitive souls. Who knew what strange customs and rituals went on here; what led my father to keep an inordinate number of pennies in his sock drawer; what madness lurked in the drawers of adults? EEEWwwwwww...I couldn't cope with discovery, and Elena had no business in there either. What if we were caught? Certain death. At least that was my perspective. She had her own ideas.
'Penny for your thoughts?"
Meanwhile Mom had also been 'collecting' pennies on the sly. She had bought a battery operated change roller and must have been working late into the night rolling those pennies, packing them into her tins. Storing them out of view in an obscure corner of the guest room closet. While cleaning out that closet just last night, I came upon her private reserve. More than I had expected, it seems as if she may be ahead of the old man. Sheesh...not just one tin. Many Tins.
Brimming with rolled and to be rolled pennies and penny rollers. At least 50 lbs of them. Who knew? I think when my grandfather passed it was the same thing. Bottles and bottles and coffee cans full of pennies. Why not quarters? One of my earliest memories of my grandfather was him making a bank for me out of a margarine container. He put a slice in the lid and started my brother Vinny and I out with 26 cents. I never really could save money and have no problem spending my pennies at the gas tank. Ohhhh no Lady!
Dad: You can have those pennies. I don't need 'em.
Me: NO WAY! I am NOT taking your pennies, Dad. I am not going to spoil that moment...Let's go down to Commerce together one day and pour them into the counter. You have to be there. Mom can take hers too!
'Pennies from Heaven"