Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The True Value of Fifty Dollars

Do you remember in my entry "The Story of Us" (worth the read, if you've not already) how I wrote about moments that live forever in a person's soul? The kind of moments that change who we are and the way we live. I was reminded of one of those moments recently, in the most unexpected place - a nightstand.

In May a teacher at my old elementary asked me to come speak to the 6th graders about the importance of writing. 
Convince a sixth grade class that writing is important and in the heck was I going to do that?

I decided that in order to connect with my audience of kids, I needed to understand where they are in their lives. 
What is important? 
What is not?  (Writing, duh.)
What worries them? 
What excites them the most? 

I decided it was time to find an old journal. I headed to Momma and Dad's, in the south door, through the family room, up the stairs, around the landing, in to Laura and I's old room. I walked past one twin bed (worth the read, if you've not already) and dropped down to my knees, opening the bottom drawer of our nightstand. I dug through the old school folders, disposable cameras, loose negatives and cassette tape cases until I found one of my old journals, labeled, "Secrets". 

Padlock and all. 
How great could the secrets have been at that age that I needed a padlock? 
I'll never know. 
I can't find the key. 
Neither can Momma - Trust me, she has tried to find that key for years

Very lucky for me, loose pages fell out when I pulled the book out of the deep drawer. 
Thanks, Momma. 
I found some real gems. 

These are initial designs for my clubhouse. I don't know who I was going to invite to the clubhouse as regular members. We lived 15 miles from town.  I actually did paint this in the top floor of our old bull shed. It didn't turn out nearly as cool as it looked on paper. 

And then, I found this. 

An open envelope without a name on it. It had clearly been wet at one time; the paper was rippled. I opened it, and it didn't take me long to remember what was inside that I had tucked away, but held on to, for years. 

Inside that old white envelope was a note from my Momma (I never did understand why she didn't sign Dad's name, as she always does on birthday cards) on the occasion of my 13th birthday. 

I was crushed the evening I opened that envelop. Absolutely, secretly, smiling-through-the-"Thank you so much!", devastated. At that point in my life, I was certain I was going to a big star in Nashville in just a matter of time. I had performed in the school-wide variety show every year, in Share-the-Fun for 4-H and was even the entertainment for our county fair 4-H queen contest while the judges tallied their votes. I knew I'd be the next Reba McEntire...if I only had a guitar. 

Instead, I got fifty bucks and some "stupid" verse that meant nothing to me at 13. In fact, I'm not even sure I read that motivational card until I found my journal 15 years later. 

On my 13th birthday I was disappointed and mad. 
Mad that Momma and Dad obviously didn't have enough faith in my singing to ship me to Nashville (looking back, could I blame them?) with a brand new guitar.
A brand new guitar I was sure I would find the time to play between club volleyball, showing cattle, making baskets, babysitting and cheerleading practice.
Mad that they wouldn't fork out a couple hundred bucks for a brand new guitar.  
Didn't they know that I would have paid them back double when I scored my first number one?!

That night after dinner I retired to my room and put the make-shift birthday card - and all of its contents - back into the envelope, tucking it into the pages of my journal. In that moment I decided to be spiteful and never spend that money Momma and Dad gave me. I could tell Momma made a special trip into town to the bank to withdrawal the fifty dollar bill; it was clean and crisp and new. It was perfect.

To prove a point, I would wait to put their hard-earned money to use on something special when I actually became something - since apparently they never believed that day would ever come. 

Goodness, was I wrong. 

It was one of those moments where I was just disappointed enough to become extremely motivated to prove people wrong. Have you ever experienced that? Today I believe that my 13th birthday shaped me in the same way Dad's cattle experience shaped him, only thirty years later. That night, while scrubbing my face with Noxema, I was completely motivated to be somebody worth.......knowing. 

I can say with confidence that was the only time in my life that I was motivated by money.
My direction was changed by fifty dollars. 

Fifteen years later...

Life goes on. 

I never made it to Nashville. Except to listen to live music and buy boots. 
The only people who ask for my signature are the ladies who handle the insurance paperwork at my doctor's office. I'm fine with that. 
The closest I came to being popular on the airwaves was when I guest DJed at our local country station earlier this year. I mispronounced a simple word and I will likely never live it down. Ever.
One of my life goals is to one day become the kind of parent both of mine were - supportive, demanding, encouraging and practical

I never did learn how to play that damned glorified guitar, but you know what?
By scribbling passionately and intensely in that old beat up journal, 
I realized I had something...
...I could write


  1. Great story. I'm glad you appreciate now the way you were raised. (it's hard to appreciate that at the young age of 13).

  2. Love this Lindsay! I may need you to come talk to my 6th grade class too!:)