You know that scene in the movie.
Silly old Daddy has lost the plot and all the family’s cash, and the kids are about to be repossessed …. youngest child, behind the sofa, listening to him and his wife arguing, pops his cute little moppet head up, and looking from one to the other, doe eyes all a-glisten, asks:
“Are we gonna be poor now, Mommy and Daddy, are we, huh … Mommy and Daddy …?
The violins swell and there’s a sheen on Daddy’s eyes too as he softly grips Sonny’s little shoulders, and lies sincerely: “No, son, we’re not going to poor … everything will be all right, you’ll see …”
Okay, I can’t name the movie … I might even have made it all up.
In my head anyway, the scene takes place in a plush living room that would fit your whole house and garden easily, and you know that poor is a very relative word.
Especially in mainstream Hollywood movies.
But we can still relate to the basic premise.
Or at least I can.
And sometimes it’s a little closer to home than I’d like.
We’ve just come off a really expensive Christmas, which lasted about six minutes … okay, we spent the money, nobody made us do it … and then our daughter had a January birthday.
Now I’m not getting into our financial situation, but let’s just say there is a bit of a juggling act goes on with our bank account every month, like a lot of people … outgoings and incomings, correlating, more or less …
And sometimes things get a little out of sync …
That overdraft limit gets reached earlier than anticipated …
And you are asking the guy next to you in work, “But what time on Thursday does our money go in … like, exactly? …”
My wife and I are both paid monthly, and my money goes in a week before her’s. So my money covers that critical seven days.mmm
More or less.
Now I’m freelance and while it’s steady enough, some months are better than others.
My wife has the steady job, so her numbers are the ones that really light up that bank balance like the old Madame La Rue pinball, as Tom Waits puts in his brilliant live version of the old Red Sovine weepie, Big Joe and Phantom 309
So this time around it all happened earlier than ever … the ATM told me to get stuffed, more or less … and even the credit card fall-back was about to burn up on re-entry … if I had it with me anyway.
So there I am in a nearby town, and I go to the cash machine to get money for a new phone charger for myself, and two for the kids’ iPhones … SuperValu have these really good ones for €5, much cheaper than for my Huawei … and the screen tells me we have €20 in our account …
It’s six days to go before my monthly cash comes in …
I take out the twenty and, numb, I head for Supervalu … I have to get the kids’ chargers anyway …
Now it’s all about choices … some things I must forget about for now. Like my new phone charger.
My wife and I will have to confer later on tackling this period of negative equity.
The shopping centre is filling up now, and has been totally reframed in my head … now it’s a place of opulence and opportunity, for those with money … for me, it’s like having my nose pressed against a series of shop windows, knowing I can’t go in.
Except to SuperValu, where I get the kids’ chargers and the basics for dinner, and I go to the automatic check-out.
I’m out the door and walking and everyone in this walled in shopping Mecca seems salubrious … solvent anyway …browsing and impulse purchasing away … while Mr Cash-Frozen here, isn’t … he’s just glad he had downloaded enough credit to his bus card to get home.
With his chargers, chicken fillets and garden peas.
I’m messing with my own head, of course, and I catch myself in the distance in the vast mirror that makes up one entire wall of a cute little coffee dock. A mirror to make the place look big, and me feel small.
I look at my reflection objectively: ‘Does he look like he has no money in the bank … a bit shifty, nervous, maybe … can people tell …?’
Then I remember, ‘You didn’t pick up your change at that check-out, did you? … ‘
It was just short of €2 …
Back I go, hoping it’s still there … watching that Supervalu sign getting closer and closer …
The change isn’t at the machine I used, but the woman with the cash bags knows what I’m after and counts out the exact amount …€1.85 …
‘It all counts,’ I joke mirthlessly to her …’I might as well get it as Supervalu …’
She agrees with a professional smile.
I pass a branch of Penneys, the well-known Irish clothes retailers.
The large neon ‘Penneys’ sign over the door is beaming out messages to me now.
‘Penney’s’ has become a statement … like, ‘You are penny-wise but pound – or rather euro-foolish … that’s why you are broke …’
And that old saw, ‘Look after the pennies and the euros will look after themselves …’ has wormed its way into my addled mind.
Oh, Christ, let me out of here!
So, I’m out the door, and I see my bus ahead, half-way down the main street.
‘You’ve missed that too … loser!’ says my annoying inner voice …
The stop is all the way down the far end of the street.
No chance of catching it, and the next one won’t be for half an hour …
Hold on, the traffic has slowed up and the bus has stalled … can I make it?
My hamstrings whine, ‘there’s no way we’re going to let you run, if you are even thinking about it ’…
A fast walk, maybe?
And then it speeds up and is soon past the stop anyway.
The next bus eventually pulls up.
It’s the new model, single-decker.
Brilliant! The one with the charging docks on the back of each seat.
If I had a charger …
Yes, poor is relative … we are nowhere near it, I know, and I am well aware that my mind was only really playing with the idea.
It was a tight month was all and we are well back on track.
We may never be rich, but we will not know real poverty either.
But in these days of easy credit, it’s maybe timely to note that a bit of care is called for!
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The Mum Conundrum