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Bankroll, Yo

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

Half of my DNA belongs to Texas. My aging telomeres had been trying to tell me this for years but I ignored them until my brother wrote to say his had been doing the same thing. What did he say, you ask?

Big Sister, I find myself unwillingly on the precipice of middle age and increasingly preoccupied with questions of mortality and the meaning of my existence. I aspire to visit the land of our forefathers to honor the memory of our departed pater and reconnect with our roots so I can resolve any remaining intrapsychic conflicts which have emerged in my quest for self actualization before such time as all those souls old enough to recollect me pass from this fragile earthly existence. Oh, and to appease my achy telomeres. For this reason, I am hopeful that you will agree to accompany me to Texas this fall when my country club closes for annual maintenance.

Hell, no. Naw. Not Will. He laughs at my verbosity—but only because we never see each other for more than a few days every other year. Imagine what it would be like to live with me?…Actually, keep that to yourself. Don’t make me cry.

Here is what he really said. He sent a text:

Yo! Whut up, Big J? How bout u n me meet up n tx n visit r peeps ina fall wen da club cloz?

No, he is not illiterate. He does that on purpose. Because he is cool. And, um, bad. And maybe rad? Wait. Is phat a word?

Our sister Gwen and I had tossed around the idea of visiting before this but it had never gotten out of the “wouldn’t that be nice” or “someday” stage. The telomeres had been satisfied with Facebook up until now.

In planning the trip, Will and I divided the labor the way we knew it would work best. After so many years as sibs, we knew the sweet spot. My job was to handle logistics and blow up his phone with lengthy updates and annoying questions. His job was to love me anyway. And give his input, of course. I’m not a total control freak! To prove my point, I archived all his responses and present them to you here:

Awsum!

Thx!

Snds gud!

Yes

Naw

Phuckit!

The time finally came. I arrived a few days early to get the lay of the land before picking him up at Love Field. We fell into easy conversation.

Wait. I’m about to forget why I started this piece!

My brother, as can be said of all of us Lees, is a jar of mixed nuts–a mixture of common and cultured. Will is a highly intelligent, articulate man with a refined palate and a wardrobe consisting solely of Ralph Lauren*. He works as a country club golf pro, teaching and caddying for celebrities. The guy is the only one in the family who can make a decent cucumber salad.  On the other hand, Will is an aging, beat-boxing gangsta wannabe with a crippled cat named KickStand. He is a half-luddite who frowns upon the use of plastic money. Go figure. How he thrives in L.A. is beyond me.

(Ok, I lied. He has the gift of gab. He is a virtuoso.)

After an exhausting trip, Will was dying for a cigarette. I pulled over, and he pulled out his money. Did you hear me say “wallet?” No. He had told me a while back that he was saving up his tips for our trip. For some reason, I had envisioned my little cache of folded bills. I don’t carry much because I like plastic. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t need a money clip. I could make do with a bobby pin.

Lord, have mercy! I am thankful my little bro is an extremely tall man with extremely tall pockets. The inauspicious bulge might otherwise have upstaged our homecoming. His bankroll was that big.

As he peeled off some ones, he smiled.

Did Dad teach you that too? Small bills on the outside?

I smiled back and showed him my measly wad of doubled bills. Ones on the outside. Always.

He hopped back into the SUV, and we were off. We never ran out of things to talk about as we roared through the stomping grounds of Billy Boy Lee.

This post is part of Family Rules. For the prior post in the series, click here. For the next post, click here.

*I am not kidding. I still tease Will about his mincing steps when I asked him to accompany me and Gwen on a walk down country roads while visiting family in West Virginia one Christmas. He hadn’t thought ahead—or he just didn’t own the right clothing—and had had to decide whether or not to embrace the cabin fever with the help of a few brewskis or take a stroll through gravel, grime, and potholes in his pristine, white canvas Ralphs. He chose the walk. Love ya, bro!

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Don’t Tell Your Father

Don’t Tell Your Father

This rule was a non-starter, and I’m surprised that someone as intelligent as Mom would even try it.

Dad earned the money, and he determined how it was spent. He had a budget for everything, and he expected Mom to keep all expenditures within the limits he had designated. I’m not sure his expectations were always realistic. For one thing, he wasn’t generally the one doing the shopping, so he may not have been aware of what things cost. Secondly, his idea of “need” versus “want” didn’t overlap too well with Mom’s.

If my Dad said the grocery budget was $X for the week, God forbid Mom should go over it. If she couldn’t make ends meet, she was just not being frugal enough, gosh darn it! My Dad had grown up shoeless in Texas on cornbread and beans, and he just didn’t understand her frustration. My Mom claims that we did not, in fact, have chicken and dumplings for dinner ALL. THE. TIME. but that’s how I remember it. Budget food. Blobby homemade flour dumplings swimming in chicken broth with celery, carrot slices, and chicken bits. Gross! I might have grown to like it in time if it hadn’t been such a staple.

Culinary matters were usually not too terribly contentious. Where things got a bit hairy was when it came to clothing. My brother was the youngest child, and he remained completely content with utilitarian items for many years. But my sister and I started realizing that our wardrobe of Sears Toughskins high waters, striped turtlenecks and Keds left a lot to be desired. Other girls had maxis, minis, and go go boots! And then there were halter tops, bell bottoms, and, sigh… Avon!

Mom understood the seriousness of the matter. A girl from the suburbs of D.C., she knew we needed to have a little “something” now and then to make us feel pretty and keep us from feeling like oddballs. Periodically she’d give in to her impulse to buy us some coveted item which had caught our eye. “Don’t tell your father,” she’d say conspiratorially, “It’s our little secret.” We were thrilled! Mom was our heroine! Yay!

Everything was great until Dad went to balance the checkbook and take care of the bills. What was Mom thinking?! Did she really think he wouldn’t notice?

“Carol!”

“Yes?”

“You’ve gone over budget again!”

“Oh my! How could that have happened? I was being so careful!”

And so it went. Dad puffed out like a rooster and Mom eating crow.

Dad used to confide in me that Mom needed his close supervision because she was like a child, and she just might not be bright enough to balance a checkbook. I knew Mom was dumb like a fox.

In her way, my mom was a very powerful woman. She still is. I give her credit. But in time, the words, “Don’t tell your father” caused me to decline the treat. The price was just too high.

This post is part of a series called Family Rules. The prior post is here. The next post is here.

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