Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All hail the mighty pig

From Western Illinois Family Magazine and The Galva News

Maybe I'm old-fashioned.
Check that.
I am old-fashioned, a supposed failing that has been pointed out to me innumerable times over the years by my wife, my children, and now, my grandchildren.  Of course, I don't consider it a bad thing. Not at all. On the contrary, I figure it's a sign that my actions and beliefs are simply more well-considered and time-tested than some.
That goes double when it comes to the distribution of monies and other valuable tokens and prizes to one's progeny, like the allowances that are often discussed among family groups.. In fact, I am quite liberal and free-flowing when it comes to many aspects of life and childhood. Anyone who remembers the shoulder-length locks I wore in the late sixties, along with the dreadlocks both of my sons sported in their own college days, would have to agree that my fashion sense, at least, was once rather radical chic. And my politics remain mostly pretty moderate, depending on the issue and the numbskull who's running for office. But when it comes to those allowances, I admit I suddenly become more conservative than a tea-party republican at a free-clinic fundraiser.
And that is, mostly, because, more than anything, I am cheap.
In my own defense, I also think it's because I was raised by thrifty folks who, after living through the Great Depression, tended to feel that it was quite alright to give me most everything I needed, like food, clothing, shelter and an education, but counted to 10 before showering me with the ponies, new ball gloves, shiny bicycles and hula hoops that I really, really thought I wanted. Moreover, they also felt it was O.K. to ask me to do a few things like mow the lawn and shovel the walks without putting me on a regular salary with health benefits and a 401K.  I remember once trying to convince my mother that a little moola might serve to inspire me to greater academic heights.
Me: Will you give me five bucks if I get a 'B' in algebra?.
She: Get a 'B' in algebra or you're sleeping in the garage.
Well, I certainly got the message on that one, and later, I always did my best to avoid being railroaded into setting my own kids up with any kind of regular transfer of funds, as well, thinking that there had to be a better way.
But here's the thing. As a busy household, with both ma and me working out of town, there were times when our sons did need some cash in a hurry, mostly, I assume, for important things like milkshakes and the Sunday School collection plate.
Enter the pig.
The porker being pondered is not a real one, but a faux-pig made of pottery. It's an altogether ugly thing, with a huge cork snout that allows easy access to the riches within. I would fund it from time to time with all the change from my pockets, plus a smallish helping of dollar bills if I was feeling exceptionally generous.  In return, my sons would spend said change and bills, and otherwise mostly leave me alone, which, in my opinion, worked well for all of us. When they got a little older, they both managed to supplement that basic income with paper routes, lifeguarding and other kid-jobs that kept them flush until it was time to roll out the big guns for essential things like proms, haircuts and college tuition. It didn't bother me that the pig was almost always nearly empty, figuring that it meant I was getting it just about right. Once the boys flew the nest and eventually became husbands and fathers in their own right, the pig became a mini-savings plan for the two of us empty nesters. Once in a great while, when it got so full we couldn't fit in another nickel, we would dump the contents into a bag and toddle off to the bank, where the magic change-counting machine would separate actual legal tender from the buttons, shells, paper clips, buckeyes and other flotsam that somehow got mixed in, leaving us with a sudden influx of unexpected cash that we often blew on fun stuff like dinner out, a trip to the movies or surprise gifts for family members.
But mostly, we left it alone, and even kind of forgot it was there except when we wanted change to wash the car or needed coins in case we thought we might  have to drive on a toll road on one of our extended journeys. It wasn't until our younger son visited with his own kids awhile back that we realized that the pig-economy was still alive and well. He and his boys were heading for a pizza joint that also featured video games, so he popped the pig's cork-snout to grab a few quarters.
"Wow," he said, "Where did all this money come from?"
"Well," I explained. "It's because there's been something missing around here that has put our household economy into a definite upswing."
"What's that?" he queried.
Oink. Oink.

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