Change Purse

by Tiffany Smith

As the youngest of eight siblings, I can recall when I was growing up how I was always the one sent on errands and grocery store runs. I’m pretty sure the term ‘errand boy’ owes its origin in some fashion, to me. I remember vividly my mother at times carefully removing money from her little, mustard brown change purse. It was made of real leather and had a polished metal mouth and clasp. Sometimes my mom would tell me to remove a specific amount of money from the change purse, and use it to buy sugar, batteries, or God forbid, tampons.

Often, my mom would stuff crumpled up bills into it, to which I would playfully remind her that it was a change purse, not a bill purse. And then there were the times when I would relieve the change purse of some of its contents unbeknownst to my mom to abscond with money, with which to buy candy. There were times when my mom would carry only the change purse and leave, what she called at the time, her ‘pocketbook’ at home. That was when I realized that the change purse not only meant more to her than her pocketbook, it was as special to her as it was to me. I realized shortly before adolescence, that I really loved that little change purse, because it symbolized my mom; small, beautiful, elegant, and purposeful. As I grew into adulthood, I stopped seeing the change purse so often, and then, rather suddenly, I stopped seeing my mom.

When my mom died, I was twenty-six years old, and my six sisters descended upon my mom’s personal things and divided them up before I even knew they were gone. Nothing remained for me. The piano that used to sit in the living, room, the linens with thousand thread counts, the pottery, photos, fine china, and expensive fabric, all disappeared with haste. It was okay because I didn’t really want much outside of my mom herself, but I also didn’t have anything to remind me of her.

One day when I was visiting my dad, he gave me several troy ounces of silver that he had purchased when he was a young man. Before I left him on that particular day, he also pulled my mom’s change purse out of a drawer and gave that to me as well. I hadn’t laid eyes on it for well over a decade, and because I didn’t have any other mementos belonging to my mom, it became very precious to me. Today, I carry the change purse in my backpack; dispensing change to anyone in need of it. It’s filled mostly with quarters, but also dimes and nickels. I don’t grace it with pennies because somehow they don’t seem worthy of it, so they are collected elsewhere. However, every time I look at it or handle it, I remember the woman who taught me thriftiness and money management. It reminds me fondly of my mom.

Tiffany Smith is a Queer woman of color, U. S. veteran, who writes fiction short stories, non-fiction essays, screenplays, novels, poetry, and reconditioned well-known, European fairy tales into those with African-American, Native-American, Hispanic American, or Asian-American tints. She is an avid supporter of the Disabled, Academically At-Risk, and LGBTQ+ communities. She lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where she writes prolifically and dreams without cease.

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