Monday, February 25, 2019

Mama's $2 bill

I had to cover a city council meeting in Sumiton yesterday. Sometimes it’s hard for me to face that kind of work without a stiff drink, so I stopped in The Blend Coffee Shop to buy some java. 
Pulling the wallet from my pocket, I reached for the gift card my sister had given to me for my birthday. While sliding the card from its holder, a $2 bill fell onto the floor. Picking it up, I remembered that this was a gift too.
The $2 bill was a gift my mom gave me over 40 years ago. She collected them for some reason. One Sunday during a visit to her house, she was sitting in her lounge chair close to the fireplace. Someone had installed a natural gas heater in the old fireplace, and it kept her living room slightly hotter than a sauna. 
There was a room full of family members and friends there. It was after Sunday lunch, and everyone was stuffed. The toasty room made most of us long for a nap. Some said their goodbyes and headed home. Jilda and I lingered a while longer to help clean up the kitchen.
Afterward, as we sat there letting the fried chicken digest, a thought occurred to mama and she reached for her purse. Fumbling around through some of the hidden compartments, she pulled out a small container of $2 bills. She gave me one and said, “Keep this in your pocket, and you’ll never be broke again.” 
Not being broke was important to my mom, who was a child that lived through the Great Depression. She was the middle child of 13 children. Times were hard, and money was scarce. A $2 bill back then would have seemed as big as a sail.
After my mom and dad were married, he worked as a laborer in low-level jobs to put food on the table. She worked in our home raising kids. She spent most of her time cooking, washing, starching and ironing clothes. She also kept a garden.  
Later, she earned a little extra money by washing and ironing clothes for some of the more affluent people in the area. While our family didn’t have money to burn, she was never broke again. She always had a little money stashed in her purse in one of those secret compartments.
Today as I write this, my calendar chirped reminding me that mama had died seven years ago today. 
I could go on and on about all the gifts my mom gave to me throughout my life, but that $2 bill was a way of teaching me a life lesson. There were times in her life when she had no money and those times left a lasting impression on her. She worked her fingers to the bone to ensure that she would never be broke again.
Since that day she handed me the $2 bill, there have been times I didn’t have money to buy a coffee, but even though money was short, I wasn’t broke – I had my $2 bill.


  1. YES, those people who lived through the Great Depression did develop that attitude. I smile because my dad gave me a silver dollar to hold. I have it and a story to go with it. But I have added several and do not know which he gave to me. :-(

  2. Çok ilginç
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  3. I too have a few $2 bills. Lots of lessons learned from them.

  4. Your Mom was made wise by her sufferings.
    Hugs, Julia

  5. Your stories keep me coming to your blog. You were so lucky to be raised by someone who had so much wisdom although, I assume, no college educated knowledge. There are many celebrities that are worshiped by millions with nothing more to offer than their famous face. I'll keep my applause for those with common sense and love. Your Mom sounds like she was a gem.

  6. Poignant! My uncle used to gift his nieces and nephews $2 bills on our birthdays. Sure wish I'd hung onto one of them … for old times sake. :)

  7. A touching story. I find it interesting that the $2 bill fell out on the anniversary of your mother's death.

  8. Sweet little post. I know you miss your Mom. I still have the $2 bill my grandpa gave me.

  9. What a lovely gift your mama gave you and I don't mean the $2 bill

  10. I remember some years ago they were printing the $2 bill, and I managed to save a few. But I love your story. Your Mom was a treasure....

  11. This is a beautiful story to write in the anniversary of her passing. We are so lucky to have never known starvation. My dad was in his 20’s during that time and knew many hungry days and nights. It must have been so hard for your grandparents to care for 13 kids. I bet the older kids had to care for the younger ones which never happens today in our neck of the woods. It’s funny to see your $2 bill since the States never liked to have them around.


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