Sunday, August 06, 2006

The 57 Chevy, the Hari Karishna & the Bucket of Money

1977, nearly twenty years ago, I learned the powers of persuasion while in the back seat of a 57 Chevy in a Food Lion parking lot.
That year, like many others, had been a rough one for my family. But, as usual, in My World, things weren't so bad.
Dad would often be MIA, as he was hitting the bottle pretty hard, was still having a difficult time landing a job, & I think was in general overwhelmed with the curved balls life had thrown at him. Two sons having seizures, one with diabetes, one with Down's Syndrome & seemingly unsurmountable financial woes.
Our most valuable blessings and commondoties in life often carry the greatest risk & cost, be it financial, emotional &/or spiritual. For most parents, I beleive their greatest assett is their children.
Anyway, Dad was MIA & Mom was heading the household. My oldest sister was 19 & had moved up & out, which left Mom with only 4 of us, when the sh*t hit the fan in her parents family. That has no relevance, other than the fact that my Mother had to leave town unexpectantly with a penny and a prayer for an undetermined amount of time. She had no choice but to call upon my oldest sister to tend to the rest of us...which she did.
After spending a day or two at the house, she quickly realized we needed food. No skimping on the right foods allowed when there is a fragile juvenile diabetic kid in the mix. Bless her heart. She was able to get a fifty dollar cash advance from her boss & with that she loaded all of us up in the '57 Chevy & off to Food Lion we went. Every item had to evaluated & re-evaluated before it made it's way into our buggy. Some things gots put back. I remember shopping with Mom, we felt good to average 10 dollars a bag (they were all paper bags in that era). My dear sister managed to average about 5 dollars a bag and as I calculated this in my head as we were checking out, I became quite excited about how well we were doing on our shopping excursion. Meanwhile, my diabetic brother was getting excited about the sheer volume of food & my youngest brother, who has the Down's Syndrome, began to get stressed. When he would get stressed, he would often hit himself or begin to smash his head into his surroundings, be it a wall, the floor or what have you.
As he began to take position, indian style on the floor of the Food Lion, to begin the ritual of crushing his forehead into the tile, my eldest sister scooped him up & put him in the vacant buggy. As the cashier was still ringing & the bag boy was quickly bagging, she frantically pulled the fifty dollar bill out of bell bottoms' hip pocket & passed it to my middle sister...advising her that she was taking us on out to the car, along with half of the groceries already bagged.
Out we went into the glorious sunlight. We had four or five bags of groceries already & more on the way. About half way to the car, we were approached by a young man, sporting some kind of beanie cap & toting a silver bucket on each hip. One bucket was filled with beautiful flowers & the other with a great mystery, which I would later discover. He pulled a flower from his bucket and was trying to hand it to my sister. She thanked him and politely rejected his offering. He advised us that it was a gift because she was a child of God. As she was encouraging my older brother to 'just get in' the car, I could sense her irritability growing & I didn't understand why.
This man had the greatest job ever...standing on street corners in the beautiful daylight passing out pieces of God's works of art, flowers...for free! Whew, that's what I wanted to do when I grew up...much better than being indoors all day!
As my sister was trying to pull my 5 year old baby brother from the kid section of the buggy, I accepted a flower from the beanie wearing, peace-loving flower child of God. No sooner had she gotten my little brother secured in the center section of the '57 Chevy's back seat, when things changed. The air of love that had emitted from this fellow turned into an evil eye.
As my sister pulled herself back out of the back seat, he was telling her that he was due a ten dollar contribution. She was livid...'what for?,' she popped. He pointed at me & I removed from nose the flower... just in time for big sis to yank it from my hands & hurl it back at him. What was happening?
He shamed my sister, pointing out that we had sveral bags of groceries and a running vehicle while people were literally starving to death around the world.
My little brother began to rock backwards & forwards in the car. If the tensions continued to rise, soon he would be in a fit.
The Giver of Gods gifts & my sister were blocking my entrance into the car and I could see my other sister now exiting the store with the 2nd buggy of groceries. I pointed her out to my Big Sis and she yelled for her to 'Hurry Up.' About then, this Giver of God's Gifts began his approach towards her, along with her buggy of food. As she raced towards the car, not knowing what was going on, both my sister & the Giver, were racing towards her. My 19 year old sister was yelling 'You leave her alone, she is just a child.'
That kind of teed me off. She was not being selfish... we did not have ten dollars. Yes, we had groceries, but they were on borrowed dollars & we needed them...there were no twinkies, no cereals, no sweet treats in our bags. We had oil, flour, sugar, bread, milk, eggs, pasta etc and we didn't know how long we would have to make them last. Ugh, I got into the car with my brothers, as my two sisters continued to move the remaining bags into the trunk & the Giver continued to berate my sisters for our ungodly, self-serving ways.
My door was still open, as we were in Central Florida & it was hot & I was beginning to get little brother was quickly entering an autistic fit & my older brother was having an increasingly difficult time easing him. My little brother was talking between his two hands, rocking in place and making the croaking sound of a frog.
As my middle sister jumped in shotgun, barking at me to close my door, my eldest sister took a final position with this Giver of God's Gifts.
In an almost subdued voice, leaning across me to check my little brothers belt & brush his hair back, she said 'Lemme ask you something Sir.' He said 'Yes' as she pulled back out & began to close my door. She said 'Just exactly where do your donations go?' He quickly replied 'to Gods Children.'
With that she quite emphatically responded, 'Gods Children!? Gods Children?!'

Before I could blink she had grabbed his smaller silver bucket and tossed it into the back seat with us...Oh My! It was filled with money! She said 'Thank you so much! You see, I have Gods Children right here in the back seat of my '57 Chevy!' She ,now, was tossing his bucket of flowers in through the window.
He was speechless and dumb-founded, frantically trying to reach through the window to retrieve his goodies. She barked at him 'YOU?! Not giving to Gods Children! You should be ashamed!?' Her words! They mirrored this man's words from just moments before. I continued to roll my window up on this man, he was scaring all of us. But he stopped & looked at her, seemingly stunned by her words. She jumped in the drivers' seat, slamming the door shut. Before I knew it, the good ole '57 Chevy was cranked & rolling, with him running alongside us, through the Food Lion parking lot, smashing his palms against my window.
I was terrified, shocked, proud, excited and confused. As we had to stop before pulling out onto the road, my sister said "Honey- quickly roll down the window & throw his stuff back out to him when I stop.' I protested, telling her that there was money...dollar bills. She said 'Yes, Darlin' I know, but REALLY it's NOT ours and we don't need it. It's dirty money! We're all together & we'll be OK, really.'
As we stopped, I crammed everything out the window.
Seeing the bucket of money spill onto the hot pavement didn't bother me so much, as seeing that man step all over those beautiful flowers to pick his money up. He totally destroyed the ideologies I had formed in my head of the life of a god-loving flower child, as her pureed those petals into the pavement.
He also reinforced my values in many ways... my values of worth, merit & values of the simple things in values of perserverance & conviction and of course, my value of family.
Things I learned from this experience:
-That it's not in what you say, it is what you do
-That a little can go a long way
-That patience can quickly turn into perseverence
-That things aren't always as they seem & nothing is free
-That there is always someone worse off, in one way or another, than you
-That I'd rather have a bucket of flowers than a bucket of money, as long as we have some food in the trunk
Please feel free to post any comments. I'd like to think that someone, anyone, anywhere, (other than me) might have gotten something out of this experience:) Until Next Time ~ Peace, Love, Flowers & Tin Buckets


19 at the time said...

well darling, I got a lot out of it! I think we had day old pot roast for dinner that night! And your skinney little thing was leaping all over that chevy(so much for seat belts) with excitement at what was packed in those grocery bags! And as for the moonie with the flowers, maybe he learned something too...or maybe he didn't. But he certainly had the look through those hot dusty windows at the sweaty little faces packed like sardines into the comfy cozy couch of the chevy's upholstry...offered him a world of hope, of dreams, and the true story....of survivors. ILY, another skinny little blonde

psycho-therapist said...

ahhhh, i love your mom. i love your world i love your writing. keep it up, myrant. what a talent you are! lisa

psycho-therapist said...

oops, i meant to say, i love your sis. but hell, all of you are pretty fantastic!

beth said...

Great story here - but I really think you could have and SHOULD have kept the money. You are, after all, God's children....

I'm enjoying strolling through your memories here.

skinnylittleblonde said...

Thanks Beth...You are always welcome in my world :)
LOL, at first I thought my dear sisters words made good sense & that we were gonna keep it. LOL

it's the little things... said...

What an excellent story. I would have kept the money, though. :)