Last week on the way home from school I asked Sean what he did in school that day.
“Nothing,” he said.
“Oh really? Not anything? You just sat at your desk with your hands folded for four hours? I’m going to ask for my money back if they’re not going to teach you anything.”
This caused him to sniff in amusement.
“We had centers today.”
It was a crumb, but I take what I can get.
“Centers? Really? Reading?”
“Shopping Centers!” I laughed at my own joke.
“What did you buy?”
“Well!” he huffed, “I only had 75 pennies so I bought an electric pencil.”
“You mean a mechanical pencil?” I said rather than asked, “Good choice. Cool.”
“No, not cool. I wanted to buy the bunny purse for you but it was like 100 pennies and then Karys bought it!” he whined with indignation. “I didn’t have enough money!”
That was interesting because the last time we were at the school for a class party, AD noted that Sean had a huge stash of pennies in his cubbie while the other kids only had a few coins each. AD later suggested to me that Sean should set up a little business of making secured loans to the other children at a reasonable rate of interest. No, not usury. It sounds so ugly when you say it like that. Think of it as a math lesson in the power of compounding interest.
“A bunny purse?! You were going to buy me a bunny purse?!” The very thought delighted and pierced my heart at the same time.
“Yes, it had a bunny on it with a nose and it was furry and pink on the outside and purpledy-pink on the inside and it had a nice zipper and a strap for your head.” I think he meant a strap for my shoulder. I tried not to laugh at the mental image of a bunny head purse.
“But Karys bought it! I didn’t have enough money!” The injustice caused his voice to leap an octave.
I looked in the rear view mirror to see his eyes beginning to swell with tears. Didn’t have enough money. This thought stirred up ancient poor girl dust that never really settles out, but remains suspended in the soul for a lifetime.
In my mind, I could see him eyeing the bunny purse, turning it over and over in his hand, imagining how he would present it to me and how delighted I would be. I imagined him counting on his fingers, working out the math. And then the disappointment, how it would fall from the ceiling and settle heavy over him, rounding his shoulders. I felt in my own heart the disbelief he felt when he realized the bunny purse was out of reach and worse, it was going home with someone else. I know there is a good and powerful life lesson tucked away in the experience, yet it pains me all the same.
We drove another mile or so, neither of us saying a word.
“Well,” I finally said, “I have to tell you – I love that you would spend your money on me. That’s a very selfless big boy thing to do, and just knowing that? That is a wonderful gift that would make any mom happy.”
This did not go far in salving his wound.
And you know what?” I continued, “There will always be people who will get stuff and have stuff that you want. That’s just the way it is.”
Just recently I had been to someone’s gorgeous and fully accessorized home and felt a tinge of what he was feeling, familiar and bitter.
He sighed. Not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear how terrible Karys was for buying the purse out from under him. That it was unfair. That’s what I would want to hear.
But I didn’t say that. I told him that even moms and dads feel that way sometimes. I wanted him to know that, to be honest with him about that.
“But,” I said, “I find that if I can be grateful for what I have rather than disappointed over what I have not, that it makes it a little better. A little.”
That’s a hard one to learn, and a lesson to be learned over and over. So I quit teaching and let it go.
When we got home, he disappeared upstairs, I assumed to contemplate upon the unfairness of life.
20 minutes later, he appeared at my desk. The cloud of gloom had lifted.
“Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” he said cheerfully.
When I opened my eyes, I was holding a bunny purse made out of construction paper, tape and staples. My name was monogrammed on the front in purple crayon.
When life steals your bunny purse, make one out of construction paper.
I told him I couldn’t imagine any bunny purse anywhere nicer than this one.
And I meant it.