Life Lesson No. 10: Sparkles, Bling, & Such

At the time I was a child of about ten, our family would by today’s standards have been considered economically challenged. Poor. Whenever we traveled, Mama brought a loaf of bread, mayonnaise, and bologna for sandwiches. At the time, I thought it was great. Like we were having a picnic. An adventure. But as the saying goes, when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

The summer I was to go into fourth grade, my Pop decided we needed to take a road trip to some of the Civil War battle grounds. The drive from Gallup, New Mexico, took two ten-hour days. We stayed in a motel, a particularly adventurous thing for me, as I’d never before done that. We also ate our supper in a restaurant – another first. My little brother and I were allowed to share an order of fried shrimp – a delicacy I’d only heard about but never tasted. Full of that marvelous repast, we walked out the restaurant and into the evening darkness. As we walked to our car, I spotted something shiny on the parking lot asphalt. Glinting from the reflected light of a street lamp, the thing looked about the size of a quarter, which carried the same weight as pirate treasure in those days of penny candy. I joyously stooped to pick up the glittering prize.

But my fingers did not encounter cold metal. Instead, they slid through a sticky, wet gob of phlegm. I commanded my stomach not to hurl its prize of fried shrimp, wiped my fingers on my skirt, and then slumped to the car – dreams of a paper bag of licorice pipes and candy lipsticks evaporating like ice in the hot sun.

Takeaway? Other than as a life lesson, not all bright and shiny things have value. They may, in fact, be quite toxic. Or ugly. Or both. And sometimes the price of obtaining them is more than they’re worth.

2 thoughts on “Life Lesson No. 10: Sparkles, Bling, & Such”

  1. Olive, I love this one…we grew up so much alike. We often traveled to California to see my dad’s family which involved two long days and nights on “America’s Highway”, Route 66. We never, ever ate out or stayed in a motel. Dad had built a small luggage trailer we called “Pecos” (for obvious reasons see as we were living in Roswell at the time). It was a joy of ingenuity. The luggage went in first, followed by a “chuck” box like the old chuck wagons had. Dad took great joy in whipping the station wagon off the road, and while crossing his fingers that none of us kids would get bit by a snake, he would begin to whip up something that was called camp food usually incorporating a wonder food known as SPAM. One year passing through Holbrook, AZ we drove by the most amazing motel I had ever seen. It was the stuff of dreams to an 8-9 year old boy. Called the Wig-Wam Motel, it’s numerous rooms were, you guessed it, shaped remotely like wig-wams. I begged and pleaded and finally he turned around (a feat he patently refused to admit being able to do) and went back to check in. I was overjoyed! I had visions of ducking in and around the various teepees pretending to be John Wayne. As we were getting things set in the room the worst of all possible events occurred. The light fixture fell out of the ceiling and onto the bed. Dad was so upset that he went to the office, got his money back and drove straight on through the night arriving at my grandparents home well before breakfast the next day. I was devastated…but at least I did not have to wash phlegm off my hands. On the good side what usually took us two full days and two nights took just over one day and we did not have to suffer through Dad’s SPAM repast!

    On a more serious level I am so sorry you did not get your quarter…that indeed was a king’s ransom in those days.

    1. Hello Tom! I think I remember the Wig-Wam Motel from one of our road trips to California. How funny.
      Your Dad sounds like a neat guy. You have lots of cool memories. Fun to pull them out now and then.
      That quarter became the symbol of every missed opportunity as the years have flown by, as well as of everything I thought at the time to be a windfall that turned out to be something less.
      Thanks again for commenting.
      I think of you often, and with great fondness.

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