Reaping Rewards

I love to read. I read before bed. I read in the evening after homework is completed and I have a little extra time. Sometimes in the summer, after I finish the lawn I pour a big glass of lemonade and sit in the shade at the picnic table and read while the breezes cool me down and the birds are singing away.

Sometimes I have two or three books going at the same time, but usually it’s just one. And that can pose a problem. Since I live in one of those big old (1910) haunted houses (see It’s a Wonderful Life) with our bedroom on the third floor, sometimes my book is next to the bed and sometimes it’s outside on the picnic table. When I go to reach for it I find it inevitably in the other place. For this reason I have become a huge fan of these mark-down bookstores. I can find last year’s best sellers for, like, a buck. Since it doesn’t matter to me if I read the best seller within the month it was printed I gloat at buying at such a discount.

This discount has also afforded me an additional luxury; sometimes I buy two of the same book –- one for upstairs and one for down. Total investment = $2.

Now, my children and wife think I am insane and people that hear about this phenomenon roll their eyes and say the same, but you know what? It’s none of their business. This little indulgence of mine is hurting no one. There is even the added benefit of finishing a good book and being able to loan it out freely because I have an extra in my library. Little rewards that I give myself like this, they make me happy. And it’s good to be happy, especially if it takes so little.

Theory & Practice

I first started understanding this theory when I was about 12. Up until then, my parents were responsible for providing all my avenues to indulgence; a bountiful Christmas, a kind word, a pat on the back, a listening ear, but as I got older my want for independence grew strong.

My dad used to always say that the “greatest gift a child can give his parents is his independence” so I set about doing just that. As I began working, I found that the money I made was mine to spend as I pleased. That meant that if I stopped at the corner store on the way home from my lawn cutting jobs and bought a Coke, it was up to me if I wanted to buy a second one; my money, my labor, my decision, my indulgence.

By the same token, there was an Army/Navy store in town that sold surplus khaki pants for $1/pair. I could buy a couple pair and cut ‘em off for shorts or wear them as is but they were lighter than jeans and all the guys on the roadside work crews were wearing them so it became my personal fashion statement; white tee shirts and khakis; who knew I was 20 years ahead of the fashion makers.

One day my dad said, “I don’t remember buying you any school clothes in years.” I said, “Yeah, I got it covered.” I was 14 and proving my independence made me happy. I still remember the look on his face.

Somewhere around 21 my grandmother rewarded my college graduation with a gold watch. It had been given to her, years before, by a widowed friend and there was this whole big story to it but the bottom line was, grandma wanted me to have this very expensive piece of jewelry.

Well I certainly thanked her but privately I thought it was something that I’d never have an occasion to wear. It sat in a box in a drawer for years. One day I was mentioning this thing to my uncle who’d long become one of my closest confidants. “I guess I should sell it, Unc. I mean I hate to do that because it was from Grandma and all but what else can I do with it?”

He was cutting my hair at the barbershop at the time. He paused with scissors in one hand and a comb in the other and said, “Just wear it.”

I looked up and said, “Wear it? I work on a road crew and make pizza at night.”

He said, “Yeah, just wear it. Let them all guess what’s going on.”

Well you know what, I did just that. I started to wear it all the time and it always got a reaction and initiated questions and I always had a new story as to how I got this flashy thing to wear with my tee shirts and khakis, but I tell ya’ Grandma never could have guessed how much pleasure I got out of that watch.

After years of dependable time keeping it got pretty beat up and I took it in to be reconditioned. I still wear it and smile fondly at the memories; the ones that would have never occurred had I left it in the box; the memories that make me happy.

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