A Visit to Mom

     My mom is a child of the Depression. She was born in 1927. (Sorry, Mom.) Some habits stick with you, I guess.
     Mom lives in a nice place in Naples, Fla., with a view out the back window of a little artificial lake, and a tree in the back yard where a dusky ibis comes at night to dry his feathers. Mom’s doing all right. By this I mean she’s in good health and good spirits – she calls herself the world’s champion optimist – and though she ain’t rich, her house is paid off, and she doesn’t want for anything she needs, except she wishes her children lived closer, as she reminds us every so often.
     I visited her in Florida two weeks ago, and as we were talking of this and that she hauled out a little mustard jar from a shelf in the kitchen. It had a dollar bill and some change in it. And a 3-by-5-inch index card.
     She took the index card out of the jar and showed it to me.
     “Money found on the street,” it said on the top of the index card.
     “What’s this?” I said.
     “Just what it says,” Mom said. “See? It shows how much I found on the street every year in my walks.”
     It did indeed. Here’s what the card said:
     “Total, end of year
     “2006 $13.56
     “2007 $20.01
     “2008 $5.77
     “2009 $3.77
     “2010 Counted on 4/24/ $2.20”
     “So you can see how the economy is going,” my Mom said. “See? It went up until 2007. Now not so good.”
     “What do you do with the money at the end of the year?” I asked.
     Mom shrugged.
     “When I find it on a walk I put it in my left pocket.” She patted the pocket. “That’s how I know when I come in that I found it. Then it goes in the jar.”
     “So you just spend it at the end of the year?” I said.
     “You know where you find it?” Mom said. “Parking lots. A guy will stick his hand into his pocket to pull out his keys, and doonk, the money falls out.”
     “Give me this for a minute,” I said, taking the index card.
     “What do you want it for?”
     “I’m going to write a column about it.”
     “How can you write a column about that?”
     Never mind, I said. Leave that to me.
     “I don’t see how you could write a column about that.”
     “That’s my job,” I said.
     “Well, good,” she said. “Make sure you send it to me.”
     So I went into the guest room, where my computer was, and I typed up what was on the card. It didn’t take very long. When I went back to the kitchen, Mom was in the other room.
     I took the mustard jar from the place where she hides it, behind a photo on a shelf, and I unscrewed the top.
     “What are you doing?” Mom said, coming in from the living room.
     “I’m putting your card back in the jar,” I said.
     Mom took the jar from me and looked into it.
     “You sure you didn’t take any?” she said.

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