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Tough times call for new source of credit

I had put it on the "obsolete" list, next to black-and-white television, bell bottoms and 8-track players.

As it turns out, it isn’t as obsolete as I had thought.

In an age of credit cards, automatic payments and direct deposit, I rarely carry more than a few dollars in cash.

I’ve developed a new appreciation for good old American greenbacks, and all it took was the realization that our "emergency stash" wasn’t big enough — and having an unlikely source come to the rescue.

A belated Mother’s Day breakfast at a small cafe that doesn’t take credit cards used up $25 of our emergency fund, and a couple of spring plants for the flower garden took another $11.


Which means that when it came time to leave for the Saturday night chicken fry … again, no credit cards, please … I had $4 left in my wallet.

There was even less in the checking account, and I was pretty sure that a couple of chicken dinners would cost more than that.

"I don’t have enough cash left," I explained to Carla. "Do you have any?"

"About $2," she said.

We had depleted our cache of cash.

Bank of Steven

It left us with one option, and he was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, building a space ship out of Legos.

Sometimes being a parent means swallowing your pride.


"Ah, Steven. Do you have any money?"

I was embarrassed to even ask a 9-year-old for a loan, but I knew he had some coins in a piggy bank in his room.

Besides, the idea of chicken, French fries and coleslaw offset the guilt I felt over raiding a collection of Tooth Fairy money.

Steven seemed wary: "Why?"

It was a fair question; one of my personal rules is "never lend money."

I explained that the place we were going for supper wouldn’t take credit cards, and I had used nearly all of my cash earlier in the day.

That seemed to satisfy him.

"Sure," he answered. "How much do you need?"


I figured that if I had to, I could use my last $4 and pay the rest of our supper bill with a pocket full of coins from his piggy bank if they hadn’t already been used to buy Pokemon cards and bubble gum.

"Well, do you have $20?"

"Sure," he answered brightly. "Why don’t you take $40, just in case."

I had a feeling we’d be repeating this conversation again in a few years — with the roles reversed — when he needs gas money for a big date on a Saturday night.

He hopped up and went to his room, and a minute later he was back with a handful of bills.

"Here’s $45," he said.

Parenting has a way of leaving you bewildered, angry and proud at the same time.

"Where did you get $45?" I asked.


"Oh, Christmas and birthday presents. I’ve been saving it to buy a new Lego set. I want to get the Death Star. It costs $500."

Payment with interest

He turned back to his building project, but stopped with one more question: "You’re going to pay me back, aren’t you?"

"Absolutely," I said. "I should be getting a check in the mail next week, and I’ll pay you back then."

He sat down on the living room floor and added a few more pieces to his space ship, and without looking up he added, "You have to pay me $50. The extra $5 is interest."

The check I was waiting for came in the mail as expected. I cashed it and paid Steven back.

I gave him $50.

Not because I had to, but because he earned it.


He’s going to make a great grown-up.

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