Monday, June 25, 2012

"Don't Tell Your Father"

My mother, Barbara Jo, was a force of nature.  Despite being only 4'11", she had the presence and command of a giant.  Grown men quivered at her approach.

My mother ran our extended family like Stalin ran Russia.  When she told you to do something, you knew you had no choice.  She'd hound you until it was done and eventually you realized it was easier to just submit.  Barbara Jo was like the Borg -- resistance was futile.

At the same time, my mother was generous.  Extremely so.  When I went away to college and continuing into young adulthood, my mother would always slip me a few bucks whenever we visited.  By "a few bucks" I mean a few hundred dollars.  As she quietly gave me the money, she'd always whisper, "Don't tell your father."

I assumed she was joking and that my father knew about this.  It wasn't until after my mother died that I realized he had no idea.  Even worse, he didn't continue the tradition!  A stingy immigrant, my father didn't believe in spoiling children.  The extra cash that made my life so much better stopped like a faucet being turned off. 

For years, my mother's gifts made the difference between my living poorly and my living with a little luxury.  During that time, I had only enough to pay for necessities, so her extra money meant I could dine at better restaurants and have a little fun. 

I've explained before that I treat my friends like family.  When I adopt you, I open my heart and my wallet.  If I sense you need a few bucks, I follow my mother's practice of quietly slipping it to you.  My hope is that it'll improve your life the way my mother's gifts improved mine.  Some of you reading this know what I'm talking about.

When I give away money, I'm always tempted to say, "Don't tell your father."  Sadly, nobody would understand that statement; however, I still feel the urge to say that.  I want the lesson I learned from my mother to carry on.

Do you ever give away money?  How do you feel about this practice?


  1. I'm not yet in a position to give funds to my nearest and dearest, but I sure can feed 'em. My very favorite thing is to make a for-real dinner for a lump of our friends (most of whom are students... crappy eating habit lifestyle is still a thing as we all march closer and closer to 30) and crowd as many around our small table for a sit-down dinner as I can. When asked "what can I bring?" I usually ask for a small package of cute napkins- it's a weird collection I have going and an inexpensive contribution. I love being generous with family style dinners.

    1. That's lovely. You have the same impulse and it sounds like you derive the same satisfaction. Good for you!

  2. I can only hope that I'll be in a position to do this sometime in the future. A somewhat similar situation goes on in my life. My dad doesn't work in the winter (impossible for the kind of work he does), so he has a lot of time on his hands and we do lunch a lot. He'll slide me a $20 here, and a $100 there, and it makes a HUGE difference. To him, it's nothing, but to me it means I don't have to spend my own money on gas for a month and can use that money for something else or save it. But when he goes back to work, he seriously disappears and I don't see him for weeks (or months) at a time. Obviously, there's no extra money then, and I can feel it. It's weird how big of an effect just a little money can have on the ol' poor college student. I know in the future I'll help people out like this if they need it--and by need it, I mean really need it...not need it to piss away on cheap beer.

    P.S. Your momma's such a cutie!

  3. I have three grown children and still love to surprise them with a little gift now and then. They're living in hard times trying to make ends meet and just acquiring the things they really need has been a challenge. My mother never shared, mostly because she was always living on such a fixed income. My father gave monetary gifts but they were always so conditional and we usually had to hear long lectures in "not being stupid" with money, etc....

  4. I probably would understand. My grandfather often slips me a roll of quarters or a $10 whenever he can. My brother has given me money around Christmas time in the past. Sometimes that money can be so important for me.

    I try to pay forward generosity, but it usually comes in the gift of things or giving free-food coupons/leftover giftcards to other patrons. I am still in that just making ends meet stage of life, and sometimes it's hard.

    I always frown when people say how impersonal gift cards or cash are for gifts (christmas/birthdays) because oftentimes that is the most personal gift. Having that money or that giftcard means what you said, the little luxuries, or even the ability to take care of an unmet need.

    Being poor, growing up poor can really make you feel inhuman/sub-person. I've had times of prosperity and worked hard to pay for the nicer things I own.

    I have been on the receiving end of your generosity, Ally, and I hope you know how grateful and blessed I felt to receive it. I really hope someday I'll be in the position to help more people and to give more to others, because I've had virtual strangers come out of the woodwork many times in my life to make it a little sweeter in the times of hardship.

  5. I'm a secret money gifter - especially with people who drive me around on a regular basis and who won't accept money for gas. I'll leave a $20 in the car door pocket, or drop it in a bag or purse. I never say anything.

    I also like to treat people, like buy them lunch when we're out, or if they see something they really like, I'll buy it for them. I never keep "score" but say, "If I ever am down on my luck, I know you'd do the same for me."

  6. This raises an interesting question for me. My husband and I have a blended family--he has 4 grown children and I have 3 and we have shared custody of his nephew. I suspect that both of us have slipped our children money on occasion, recognizing the need, but even though most of our financial decisions are shared, this often isn't.

  7. i think its a kind gesture that would be appreciated. im not in a position to do that at the moment (student living) but if i had cash i probably would help out a friend if they needed it.

  8. I wish I could give away money, but sadly I'm poor. When I want to give something to somebody I usualy bake or cook for them.

  9. I love reading your stories. I always help if I am in the position to, too : )

    ∞ © ∞

  10. Sometimes we do not know what a great impact our actions can have on other people.
    Your mom knew it and by helping you out almost anonymously she also taught you to give and be generous.
    When in high school my grandfather would give me 10 dollars every now and then. He was a poor man that shared everything he had with everyone - specially his smile.
    When he would come back from visiting his sister in another town he would always bring back goodies. Cookies, knick knacks and things he knew we'd love. Today it's been 10 years since he left.
    I try to make a difference but am very careful with my choices and how I do things.
    With a friend who I know has a lot of expenses I'll pick up a pair of shoes for her while with her at the store, sometimes I'll help the cleaning lady by taking her girls out for a good time. Helping a friend pay for her grandmother's hospital bill. Helping a friend get back in college.
    The clue for me is helping but usually not by giving just cash - maybe because i am a control freak :(

  11. Shew - Long time since I have left a message - been quite busy - but I have still visited often...I love this story...I give to a close to my heart charity every month - they don't know who it is from - although they know me - and that is just the way I like it...I agree with Megan-Mae, getting money as a birthday or christmas gift is my favourite - that money gets spent ten times over before actually leaving my purse and just the thinking about what to spend it on, brings me immense pleasure - I always try to make sure that I go back afterwards and show the giver what their money gift bought...Lots of love...

  12. What a lovely post, and your practice is a wonderful way of carrying on your mother's generous spirit. :) I've realized how important it is to follow the impulse to do a kind act. I look forward to the day when I'm settled enough to do the same for others. Right now, I don't have money to give, but I have books to lend and recommend and time to share.