“Grow up, Linda,” Helen said, while shuffling through papers. “Where did I put his damn card?”
“That’s rich coming from you,” Linda muttered with arms crossed.
“What did you say?” Her mother stopped her search just to ask her question with a bit of flair. Although she was the authority figure, she loved the melodramatic.
“That’s rich coming from you!” Her daughter yelled, hands balled into fists. She was used to repeating herself, but today she was finally pushed over the edge. “How could a mother use her own daughter’s college fund to start another business that’ll fail just like the others?”
“Get over yourself! You spoiled brat.” She rolled her eyes, inspiring her daughter to dream of punching a wall. “It’s my money anyway.” She returned to tossing around papers and scurrying around the kitchen. “Here it is!” She snatched a business card from a pile of bills and made her way to the phone. While she dialed the numbers, Linda stewed. Her nostrils flared, and her eyebrow furrowed. Her mother never put her first. She was one of the middle children, not as “cute” as the youngest or as “mature” as the eldest. “Hi, Joe. This is Helen Sima,” her mom began talking. “I hope --” Before her mother could get another word in, Linda ripped the cord from the wall, threw the phone on the ground, and stormed off with shrapnel scattered along the linoleum floor. “Linda Marie Sima!” Helen yelled up the stairs. “Who made you such a bitch?”
“You did, Mother!” She yelled from the banister.
“You are so ungrateful. I do so much for you!”
“Yeah, like steal my college fund?”
“It isn’t your money!” She threw up her arms, while looking at the broken phone parts decorating the kitchen floor.
“But, Mom, you said it was for me, for my future.”
“Never trust what people say. Words are nothing more than sounds and lines.” With this, Linda ran to her room and slammed the door behind her. “You’re grounded, young lady!” Helen hollered. “And you’re buying us a new phone!”
“Grow up, Leah,” Helen said to her daughter, while reading the bill in her hand. “I think you broke the world record for the most ever spent on makeup. You’re grounded until you pay this off.”
“Mom, you’re being ridiculous,” she snapped back. “It’s my money, my card. I can handle it myself.”
“No,” Helen replied with a sigh. “You need to learn how to save money, or you’ll end up like your grandmother working at 80.”
“I’m only 16! I have decades to learn all that boring stuff.”
Her mother shook her head. “So you want thousands of dollars in credit card debt by 25? You think you know it all. You think that everything will go to plan. Leah, you cannot spend like this and expect everything to be okay.”
“I’m a kid. Now’s the time to make mistakes. You can clean it up for me,” Leah added with arms crossed and looking at the floor. She knew what she said and knew how her mother would react.
Linda stared at her daughter whose eyes were much more shifty. She felt the fire of her mother’s gaze. “I can’t believe I raised such an entitled brat. Is makeup all that matters to you?”
“Tomorrow, we’re returning it all, and you’re grounded until you make the same amount of money you spent,” she said from her seat at the kitchen table.
“Mom, that’ll take forever!” Leah threw up her hands.
“You should’ve thought about that before spending it all.”
“This is so unfair!” She started crying.
“No hanging out with friends, no going out, no credit card.”
“What am I supposed to do then?”
“School and work.”
“What about prom?”
“If you can make $3,000 before then, then you can go.”
“I can’t do that in three weeks!” Tears streamed down her face.
“You should’ve thought about that too, before wasting our money.”
“I hate you!” Leah screamed.
“Good. Maybe that’ll inspire you to do better.”
Leah stomped upstairs and slammed her bedroom door behind her. Fueled by rage, she ripped open all the makeup she bought. She threw powders on the floor, creating puffs of smoke. With a few choice words and the most scarlet of lipsticks, she wrote a message for her mother on the mirror. She threw mascara on the wall, leaving black flecks and streaks around her furniture.
In addition to paying back her parents what she bought, she had to finance and complete the clean up for her room. While her friends danced at prom, she painted walls. When they went off to their senior trip, she worked alongside her grandmother at the family bakery. Helen was grateful for the help, the chance to relax. Linda could’ve yelled at Leah all she wanted. However, it wasn’t until her daughter saw her 80-year-old grandmother running a full-time business, that she learned to be smart with money. Her grandmother would die working. Not because she wanted to. She needed to.
Was it better to save for retirement or to keep creating? Developing the next business idea, riding the rollercoaster of the economy. Helen was exhausted. Her joints swelled. Her back hurt. Her diet suffered. Her doctor wasn’t happy, but she worked hard for all that suffering. While her friends passed away, she finished 10-hour work days. After her husband died, she worked even harder. She didn’t know how not to work. That was her purpose.
Leah admired yet pitied her grandmother. She wanted to work hard but not forever. She wanted to wear makeup and enjoy time with friends. Smelling like cake and washing her hands twenty times everyday was not her life’s dream. She wanted more adventures and journeys. She would not be confined to the walls of this bakery, no matter how much her grandmother wanted to pass down the business.
Maybe her mother was right. Helen learned her lesson in the 70s and didn’t get to see it pay off until now.