It has always been important to me that I make my own money. When I was little and my baby teeth started to fall out, I was delighted to learn that while we were not allowed to ever speak to strangers, my parents would permit a tulle-skirted, sparkly-winged pixie stranger to slink into our bedrooms at night and replace our tiny lost teeth with cold hard coinage. I brokered my first business deal around a lost tooth. I must have seen an ad for something irresistible in the back of my Archie comic book because with little sentiment attached, I placed the tooth under my pillow that night with the following note:
“Dear Tooth Fairy. If you could please leave me an extra 50¢ this time, I will give you my next tooth for free. Love, Kathie.” (In another letter I asked her to “take my word for it” when I lost a tooth down the drain.)
In 1969, I was nine years old. My grandparents, both of whom we adored, lived next door to us. One day, well-known Boston radio talk show host Larry Glick, offered his listeners an exciting promotional gimmick. I was beyond thrilled when my grandmother ordered for me the original, “Larry Glick Lemonade Stand”. It came with a paper tricorn hat that I wore proudly behind a small folding table set up on the edge of our front lawn. Standing sentry was a life-size cutout of a turn-of-the-century policeman that Mom had created for a previous project. The stand looked great! The entry in my grandmother’s diary from that day read, “Started Kathie off on her Larry Glick Lemonade Stand. She made over one dollar”. A stupendous Opening Day in the beverage industry!
By July 2, business was booming, documented as such in Grandma’s entry, “Kathie bought more lemonade. She has made $4.00″. Never mind the King of Pop, I was the Queen of Lemons and I was rolling in the dough! So much so, that I feared being robbed. I used to keep a piece of paper in the billfold of my purse that preached, “Thou Shall Not Steal!” I guess I figured if a thief got a hold of my pocketbook, reminding him of God’s Commandments might change his mind.
It was such a memorable time. Not only was it the year that I become a full-fledged entrepreneur, but less than 3 weeks later on July 20, 1969, we sat mesmerized in front of the TV as astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time.
When I was a young teenager, I had my eye on a beautiful 10-speed bicycle. My parents made a deal with me. If I earned half of the money myself, they would kick in the remainder and I could get the bike for my birthday. That’s all I needed to hear. Within a couple of days I had myself a paper route. It was a sweet deal. I only had to deliver one day a week to an apartment complex located down the street from our house. It basically involved dropping off a bundle inside each building’s entryway. Mom was my silent partner, driving me to work each Wednesday afternoon and waiting patiently while I jumped out every fifty feet or so with a fresh stack of papers in hand. With her by my side, I saved enough money for my half of the purchase. That March, I became the proud owner of the coolest, neon-orange 10-speed bicycle that ever rolled down the street.
My parents taught us that if we worked for something we would appreciate it more than if it were simply handed to us. They were right. When I saved up enough money to buy myself a guitar, Dad took me to Service Merchandise to pick it up. We waited, staring at the conveyor belt that transported stock from the warehouse to the front of the store until the triangle-shaped box with my name on it came into view. I still remember the elation I felt when we got it back home and I removed the guitar from its protective plastic sleeve. It smelled of wood and varnish – quite befitting a musical instrument bought through a catalog store. I’m surprised I didn’t get loopy that night from the fumes! She was a beauty.
Dad took me car shopping for the first time after I had saved up a thousand dollars by working a part-time job in a laundry. We settled on a used, light green LTD Ford. It was a huge accomplishment. I bought the car a couple of months before I got my license, and practiced 3-point turns in our driveway for hours. I suppose I should mention that after all my practicing I ended up flunking the driver’s exam. I handled the driving portion fine and my parking was flawless. I didn’t pass because I got lost on the way back to the building. Evidently, that’s frowned upon by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. If you’re wondering, I was brilliant on my second test, not only passing the compulsory portion but returning us to the starting point without a 15-mile detour.
I don’t live a life draped in riches and pearls, far from it. These days, I write a blog and keep chickens. But I am grateful every day for what I have. The lesson we learned as kids wasn’t that life will always be smooth sailing. It was that persistence and hard work will be rewarded; that, and a handwritten note is always best. Just ask the Tooth Fairy.