After listening for the whirring noises of my mom’s sewing machine in the basement of our split-level home, I slipped a butter knife from the kitchen and silently marched across the hall into my sister’s bedroom. My fuzzy, footed pajamas felt scratchy on my skin as I dragged my sister’s desk chair over to her tall dresser and hoisted her piggy bank into my arms.
I had spent the better part of the morning comparing the weight of my sister’s bank to my own. The data were consistent and clear. Her bank was heavier. She definitely had more money. It wasn’t fair.
Her bear-shaped bank was beautiful – silver-plated – a majestic figure with a sanguine expression on its face. My bank, shaped like a squat pig, was silver-plated, sure, but ugly and fat with a grimacing countenance. And decidedly lighter.
My heart racing, I carried both banks into my sister’s closet and carefully slid the door closed. Not all the way. It would look more natural that way, in case my mom came looking for me. A sliver of sunlight gleamed across the bear’s peaceful face as I tried to pry off the plastic plug.
“If only my fingers weren’t so stubby,” I told myself. “My mom’s fingers are long and graceful. Why aren’t mine like hers?”
The butter knife made quick work of the plastic cap. I carefully slipped some coins onto the hardwood closet floor. “I want hers and mine,” I thought. “I want all of it.”
Candy. I would buy candy. Reams of delicious, chocolatey goodness. Like Charlie in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I’d savor it, slowly and delicately, make the pleasure last forever. I wouldn’t gobble it up like that greedy girl, Veruca, in the movie. No way. And I wouldn’t have to share; wouldn’t have to stop eating until I wanted to.
The pennies would buy Bazooka bubble gum; the nickels, Gold Rush gum – the kind in the little draw-string pouches. I could taste the delicious banana flavor on my tongue as I quietly dug more coins out of the bear’s behind. Laffy Taffy with the dimes; Charleston Chews with the quarters.
“How did my sister get so many quarters?” I wondered. She was swimming in quarters.
“Grandpa? I bet Grandpa slips her quarters,” I thought. “He doesn’t like me because I don’t want to give him hugs. My sister gives him hugs. I bet she gets quarters.”
I only got dimes. My beautiful, loving Italian grandmother secretly slipped me a dime every time I saw her, with the unspoken message I wasn’t to share, wasn’t to tell. I was her favorite, and she gave me the biggest hugs. She also gave me the biggest slices of her perfectly-delicious almond coffee cake. And those dimes.
I sensed the my mom’s presence moments before a rush of sunlight highlighted her dark features.
“Mary Lynn, what the hell are you doing?”