SPARE CHANGE

My husband and I crouched on the braided wool rug in the living room and worked together with the small change, separating nickles, dimes and quarters. I built piles and and counted in groups of 4’s for the quarters, ten- dimes and twenty- nickles while Todd stuffed the paper money holders. I grabbed silver change by the fistfuls from the glass pickle jar by my side. On its front is a taped paper sign that reads “BAJA BANK.” We created this bank 32 years ago after we were first married. After completing the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail as a married couple, vacationing in Baja Mexico was to be our next trip.

We did not have much money back then. We lived in a tiny 500 square foot cabin that had no central heat or plumbing. We were saving money to buy land and build our own log home for our future family. We figured we would not be able to go away on a trip unless we created some way to collect extra money unnoticably. But this dream trip did not just get put on the back burner. It was removed from the stove, for the last 32 years.

As I separted the change, I found stray foreign coins: Czech Republic, Morocco, Thailand, etc. from our trips around the world with our children in the last 30 years. Now our children are the same age as we were when we first created the BAJA BANK, and they need to save and watch their spending and plan carefully for their futures, while Todd and I are more relaxed and secure.

Todd told me that he used to tap into the BAJA BANK and withdrawl every now and then over the course of our early marriage, when work was not steady. I had not known this or had forgotten it. In recent years, as we grew more financially sound, it merely served as a source for stuffing plastic Easter eggs for our kids for egg hunts and became just a place to throw spare change. The bank under the desk went virtually unnoticed in these later years when we had more than enough money to live. Until recently.

We are finally heading to Baja Mexico this winter as a wedding anniversary/birthday trip. That destination just moved up the list of priority vacations after all these years. Cashing in the BAJA BANK seems like the appropriate thing to do. But now, ironically, after saving spare change for 30+ years, we do not need it. I think we will spend that spare change in Mexico just for old times sake and to celebrate thirty years of marriage but will write a check for that exact same amount and give it to a homeless shelter. Somehow, paying it forward as an expression of gratitude seems like the right thing to do.

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