thief of time

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


The other day my son asked his dad for his week’s allowance, which was $20. He needed it a bit early because he and a friend were sponsoring each other for the Forty Hours’ Famine and thought it would look better if someone else other than themselves were a sponsor, so they were going to exchange $5 bills. Logical in some universe, I suppose.

It sent me to thinking about “in my days” as we old people like to say. I remember my first allowance being 5 cents. I was probably about seven or eight and had heard about this strange habit some families seemed to have of giving their children money, just for the heck of it. After discussing it a bit with my sister, I decided to approach my dad about getting some money of our own, for no particular reason that I was able to come up with. When he asked what I thought might be an appropriate amount, I thought I’d better not push it too far and asked for the 5 cents, which he thought he could manage.

It was great in those days how far 5 cents would go. You could drive a shopkeeper mad at the lolly counter trying to work out to get the most out of the penny lollies. Now that I’ve helped at canteen when the children were in primary school, I realise how much restraint those shopkeepers exercised when you were trying to decide whether a penny’s worth of lolly A was better than two cents’ worth of lolly B. Mathematics was never my strong point, so the calculations took some major figuring, especially since you had to factor in the relative taste of lollies A and B.

I can still remember a few years later, holding a conversation with a very worldly cousin in her teens explaining to me that when I was older, $10 would seem like nothing to me. I'm still waiting for that time to arrive, though I have to admit the $10’s seem to flow out in ever increasing amounts. I just cringe in dread when my son brings me a note from school, because as sure as shooting it’s going to cost me some money—the only question is “how much this time?” What ever happened to free education?

So anyways, these modern children just don’t realise how lucky they are. I had to do the ground-breaking work of asking my father for an allowance and since I already realised the necessity of an allowance, my own kids have had access to one right from the start. Not much of a one, mind you. Poverty has precluded the massive fortunes their friends seem to get, but it may spur them on to earning a bit of money of their own. At least that’s the theory.


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