Wealth (consisting of minimum wage) was a new sensation since I seldom earned babysitting money; I lived in the middle of nowhere.
My work day ended a couple of hours earlier than Mom’s. Sometimes I occupied myself by doing voluntary filing for Mom and her officemates, other times I walked around town and window shopped.Despite having just eaten a free late lunch after the cafeteria stopped serving, I frequented a soda fountain at Grants Department store (different than the Grants near Bochi’s). My favorite snacks were a grilled hot dog on a toasted bun or a hot-fudge banana split. For variety, I sporadically ordered French fries.
I always left a generous tip of ten cents, which really was generous at the time. I sat up straight on the red vinyl stool to convey my status of big spender and independent woman of the world.
Occasionally, I rode the bus to Fort Edward to visit my two aunts and cousins. When I got my junior license Aunt Sophi let me use her car twice on extremely hot afternoons. I drove her two oldest daughters and other younger cousins to the community swimming pool. I was the adult in charge—not wise, but my aunts were used to my cousin Annie, the same age as me and definitely more mature.
A real job meant paying taxes. I begrudged the government’s dip into my pocket, until I received my first income tax return. I realized it was my own money getting returned to me without interest, but it felt like I hit the jackpot.I was the wealthy relative swooping down upon my parents with bountiful treasures. My most common offering was a package of three tiny glass jars filled with Sau-sea shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were barely larger than my thumbnail. Our local grocery store did not contain the array of foods available now, and the tiny shrimp floating in a weak cocktail sauce tasted delicious.
My magnanimous charity extended to my non-working sisters.I bought Susan and Paula a stuffed chicken and rabbit, each covered with genuine bunny fur, for Easter.
I continued to buy my sisters treats each tax time until I moved away. One year, I let Susan pick out two extravagant items Mom would never buy. She chose white patent leather dress shoes (not on sale) and a real majorette’s twirling baton.
On Paula’s sixth birthday I was a senior at St. Norbert College, several states away. I mailed her a shoe box stuffed full with every young Norton girl’s dream; penny candy and cheap makeup.
Being so much older than my sisters (nine and fifteen and a half years), I had money when they didn’t, and I knew what kids liked.
Lesson learned: It is far better to give than to receive; although receiving isn’t all bad.
Now it’s your turn: How did you spend money from your first job?
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