Friday, August 26, 2011

My Parents: A Love Story

Last week I stumbled across a website called "The Burning House," consisting of photographs of  material items people would grab if their homes were on fire. On the spot, I could think of very few items to put in my own photo, but with a week under my belt, I realized that I'd grab my father's jewelry box. Not because it's full of rubies and emeralds and pearls...mind you, there's something more valuable, to me, in that box. When I cleaned out Mom's house, this was high on my list of things to find, and take with me:

An old wallet, with $1 tucked inside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My Mom and Dad married in 1962, in San Diego, California, where he was stationed in the navy. He used to drive her crazy by telling people that he was just walking down the sidewalk when my mother, standing on a street corner, yelled "Hey, Sailor." If you knew how prim and proper my mother was, you'd know that it would embarrass her every time, and she'd insist he tell the real story: They were dance skaters; they met at the roller rink.

A funny story that really happened is that he invited her to skate with him repeatedly at the "Couple's Only" song. Ladies' Choice wasn't called very often back in 1961, but when it finally rolled around, Dad was stunned when Mom invited another guy to skate with her. Mom would giggle for years after, when telling us the story, saying "I don't know why I did that!"

I guess her playing hard-to-get worked, because they married within 2 months of meeting one another at that rink.

One of the stories they told us often, about their young love, pertains to the wallet above. Mom wasn't working, and Dad didn't make a bundle serving for the Navy, so they were often broke when the end of the month rolled around. Dad would hock his skates in a pawn shop on a regular basis, and then return to buy them back when he got paid.

There was one particular month in which they were just out—out of money and out of food—and facing a long Sunday with neither. They'd make it another day, when Dad got paid, but the story goes they were starving by mid day. So hungry, we were told, that one of them finally said "Let's just go take a walk so we'll stop thinking about it."

Hand-in-hand they hit the sidewalk to get their minds off of their hunger, when—maybe you've  guessed it by now—they found this wallet. It had $3 and no I.D. in it!! Oh, the hugging and rejoicing, once they overcame their disbelief!

This is my Mom's handwriting, slipped in the wallet now, with the $1 bill. They opted to get a bowl of chili and go to a movie with their new riches—which they could both do for less than $2. I wondered if that could possibly true, and did a little research on the 1961 prices. Here's a menu I found online:

The soup du jour costs .20 and .30. A movie ticket seems to be running about .50, and I wonder if it was even cheaper on the naval base. According to the note, they spent $1.90 on their impromptu date, and had $1 left over.

The $1 in the wallet now is that same dollar. They made a vow to each other to tuck the wallet away, thus ensuring that together they would never again have a net worth of less than one dollar.

This story was always told to my sister and I with the closing point that if you love one another, you're going to get by. That you can be happy with a little money, and a lot of laughter. That life might get tough, sometimes, but love will see you through.

The wallet, and the dollar, and the story that accompany it, are precious to me. It's a reminder of their lifelong love for one another, and for me and Teri. It's reinforcement of the lessons they taught us about what is and what is not important in life. And now that it is mine, it is insurance that I will also, never, have less than one dollar.


  1. Beautiful story, Lori. What a great momento of your parents' life.

  2. I remember they always used to leave each other notes, all the time I spent there I'd help with the babysitting kids, I'd go into a drawer and there would be a note from grandpa saying "I love you". I would take the note out and hand it to grandma and keep going while she smiled at the note. I took this up with my mom I would slip one in her work papers or checkbook, not knowing when she would find it. And someday I plan to do it with my husband.

  3. Anonymous4:15 PM

    I love it..........would be on my list to grab also!

  4. I have not words...other than 'thank you.'

    absolutely wonderful....

  5. Lori, movies "on base" were 25-cents in the late 50's / early 60's. As an Air Force "brat" during that time period I could take a date to the BX (think department store) for a cheeseburger Deluxe (included fries), a coke, a double feature movie and, of course, candy from the lobby. Total cost? = less than $2. I worked at the base commissary (grocery store) after school as a bagboy for "tips only" and would earn $5-$10 a day. As a bagboy, I remember that $100 worth of groceries would fill up 5-6 large shopping carts.

  6. Thanks all for your kind words and support. I love the story too; it's been a nostalgic summer, there may be more to come.

    Wil, thanks for the info; I did quite a bit of searching around for it, I should have just asked you first!

  7. That is such a sweet and beautiful story. They should make a movie so that everyone can enjoy it. Awww. No wonderful you are so wonderful. Lucky you to have such parents.

  8. Anonymous4:28 PM

    Such a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  9. What an awe-inspiring story from the past Lori. I had Goosebumps when they actually found the wallet on the road! :)

    Another lesson that is obvious - "Good things happen to good people"

    Those b/w pictures with your parents smiling ( and so much in love) are just so precious..Thanks for sharing them with us.

  10. That made me smile. Thank you.

  11. Great story. Smiles and tears. Memories to cherish.


Back talk! Comment here!