She rarely drank alcohol, and when she did, she had to have ice cream in it. I am my mother's daughter with alcohol. Please give me a milkshake over wine any day.
When she received her annual tax refund, it was a bigger event than Christmas. Refund day meant we'd get to go out for a nice dinner, and by nice, I mean, not McDonald's. One year we went to Brann's where I ordered my first lobster, and like always, she had a Brandy Alexander. Another year, we went to Holly's Landing. I had my first Shirley Temple, Tom learned about Roy Rogers, and again, mom had a Brandy Alexander.
Tax time also meant good food at home. We'd get home from school to find the fridge packed with goodies and loads of Kraft Mac and Cheese in the cupboard. It looked like a whole new kitchen. New French or fruit-themed oven mitts, fresh towels, new cookie sheets - the works.
Sadly, this time of riches would never last, and we'd soon be back on the "purse- budget". My brother, Tom, coined this term as an adult. It worked like this, "Mom, can we go to McDonald's?" "I don't know. Let me check." She would open her purse and pull every dollar and coin out of the folds and pockets to see what we could afford. And then we would head to McDonald's. It didn't seem to matter that rent was due soon, or maybe our shoes were wearing out.
It was about instant gratification and hot fresh fries.
Oooh – we loved when her purse had enough to go.
Our Dad's house was the opposite. We had everything we needed. There was enough generic mac and cheese in the cupboard, apples in the fridge when we were hungry, and at least two to three pairs of jeans to get through a week. The necessities with a few extra treats. Pizza every so often, a movie once a year, and walks in the woods every other weekend. We never went without. But - what kids want to eat an apple and milk when they could get Lays chips and a Pepsi?
When mom would pick us up from Dad's during the summer, we would beg for McDonald's - immediately. Like we had been starved.
Eventually, I couldn't handle the purse budget system anymore, and I begged to move in with my Dad. It wasn't fancy or a ton of fun, but I had the basics – always.
I never wished for my parents to get back together after their divorce. But I wish that I could have experienced a mix of their two parenting styles – all of the basics necessities with some splurges that didn't need to make sense.
I'd like to witness their personal growth over the years and a softening to each other's styles—an appreciation for the gifts each provides.
I have taken the best of both intentions. I always have what I need before I buy extras, but I love a nice new towel and a spur of the moment splurge – upgrading to first-class on a flight just once, booking a massage on a rooftop, or staying up way too late with my love to be in his company.
Find your own way, friends.