What's In Your Wallet?
Updated: May 18, 2018
You've heard that credit card commercial that asks that question. It came across my television this morning and got me thinking. My weekly Positive CJ Thoughts-PCT's, are based on that. I'm publishing earlier than normal because the rest of the week I will be attending life celebrations and services for our friend Chris.
I don't carry a purse, haven't in probably thirty five years. I'd just leave it some place. My wife tells me I'd leave my brain somewhere if it weren't sewn into my head.
I do carry a wallet. In it, are pieces and parts of my life and it made me think about that theme. What's in your wallet, the physical and mental one? What are the things in your life you can't live without?
My wallet has compartments. One has a see-through panel allowing my driver's license to show through for that rare occasion when someone can't believe I'm almost fifty. Yeah, I proudly whip that bad girl out when I'm carded for beer and smile like a teenager that isn't allowed to buy it.
That one document gives my particulars, my address and vital stats…yeah some of that is, or…'was' true at one time. My eyes are still hazel and I'm still five foot five-ish. (Let's not discuss the listed weight.) It tells you I wear glasses and I have a motorcycle endorsement. Pieces and parts of my life on one small plastic card.
Back in 2010, I hurt my back at work fighting a fire. That one split second decision resulted in two surgeries that nearly ended my firefighting career. This picture was taken right after I freed a very happy dog who was still inside.
I thought I might find a person laying near the door, but I was happy to save a living creature from sure death. Unfortunately, it also put an end to something my wife and I used to do all the time, riding on a powerful two wheeled machine, our Suzuki Intruder.
I haven't ridden the beautiful motorcycle that sits in my mother in laws garage, in a very long time. My best half has suggested we sell it, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I still remember that it was one of the reasons she fell in lust with me…I mean …uh hem...love. We rode all over the place together. At first I was scared to death to put the love of my life on the seat behind me, knowing how crazy people on the road can be. As far as I was concerned, she was always the sexy one on the bike. I'll pass on this pic as evidence.
I dumped us once, but luckily, we were just turning around on gravel at the time while I tried to back it up and do a three-point turn. No harm, no foul and no blood. When she was cold, she would tuck in behind me and wrap her arms tight around my waist. The feeling of rolling back on the throttle, while she held on tight, is a memory I cherish to this day. When we got married the first time, we took the bike with us and rode all over Tennessee and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
These are the memories I hold onto with that class E endorsement on my license.
Behind that license is some cash, a stack of bank and credit cards, a SAMS Club membership, a restaurant gift card that was a Christmas present, and a $250 visa for me to go buy smoke alarms for one of my schools. Most of you who interact with me know I am obsessed with keeping kids safe by providing smoke alarms with ten-year batteries to them after I do a fire safety presentation. In 2014, I did a safety program and a few month later, one of my students, a beautiful little girl, died in a fire along with, her brother and her father. I wasn't giving out smoke alarms at that time and that's something I live with every day.
A simple Visa card reminds me of Hanna and the commitment I made to not let that happen again, if I can help it. My efforts have resulted in recognition beyond my imagination, but it won't bring Hanna, Josh and DJ back. Hindsight is twenty/twenty and what I wouldn't do to go back and hand her a working smoke alarm. Who knows what she would have grown up to be.
Once I open the wallet up, a smile immediately comes to my face. There is a picture that's about eight years old. My wife and I sit on the floor in our Pittsburgh Steelers gear holding a moptop infant in his first Steelers jersey.
We bought it for him when his parents brought him back to West Virginia from Colorado where his Dad was serving in the military. We spent the first year of his life watching him grow through Skype, pictures and videos, halfway across the country. Richard was the first of our great nephews and we couldn't wait to hold him. That sweet boy has grown into a fine young man who lives to help us on the farm, talks about space, and has brought more joy into my life than I could have ever imagined. Now he has a little brother to help show the ropes to.
His smile lights up my world and before I go home, he runs across the room and up into my arm for a cannon ball hug. My heart overflows. I am part of his village and so privileged to watch him grow up. I hope he always remembers how much my wife and I love him. I have three other wee ones in my life and I adore them just as much even though I don't get to see them as often. I was never destined to have kids, but I am an AWESOME Aunt.
There is a picture of my MaMaw in my wallet too, one of my hero's in life.
Ripple Juanita Murphy came from a poor working farm in Red Bay, Alabama. That incredibly resilient woman was mostly responsible for my southern accent and the fact that my mouth still to this day, waters at the thought of her pickled green beans.
I spent many a night marveling at her sleeping with her arm crooked under her head to keep that fabulous beehive hairdo in place.
Behind that photo is a plethora of medical insurance cards, eye, dental and health. It reminds me that I am fortunate enough to still be working and that I work for a city that still offers those benefits. So many people don't have insurance and many have lost it all to medical bills. I'm also grateful that when my wife became unemployed, our legal marriage made her eligible to be placed on my insurance and ratify her right to my pension in the event of my demise.
My grandfather put a second mortgage on our family farm in order to take care of my grandmother's medical bills. He was very poor as a child and lived through the depression. He would tell me stories of going to town and watching people on the street standing in line for non-existent jobs.
Grandpa said that bread was a nickle and yet, people didn't have even a penny to their name to buy it. Patrick Bhurman Ervin spent the rest of his life reaching into his pants pockets to check his wallet. His greatest fear was dying penniless. He kept a hundred dollar bill tucked in between the leather. Even after he could no longer drive to go buy anything, we kept his wallet near him with that same hundred dollar bill. When his mind and body started to fail in his nineties, he would reach for it frequently, checking to make sure he had money. My mom would show it to him and he would settle down. I'm pretty sure she still has that wallet with that same hundred dollar bill in it. I have to admit, it's something that stuck with me and I might have something hid in my wallet too in his honor.
In another section of my wallet, there are laminated copies of our wedding vows. As I've told you before, my wife is a woman of few words- many statistics, mathematical equations, and excel files in abundance, but few words. She surprised and delighted me when she recited her vows beneath a gorgeous blue sky, as we stood under a grapevine arch, surrounded by our friends.
Her vows were uniquely tailored to our life. A small excerpt included the following: "Endless back breaking hours of clearing the land for our future home. We've suffered through death together and welcomed new babies together. We've survived eight lanes of high speed bumper to bumper traffic and not just one, but two federally declared disasters and everything else that fell in between. And we did it together."
My wife is a former emergency manager and 911 director, so we truly have been through a great deal in our fifteen years together. I'm grateful that she married me twice, knowing what she was getting into. This weekend, we will celebrate the life of our friend Chris with his wife as we suffer through another devastating loss- together. My vows can be summed up with one word and it's what I told her that day- more. More of the things we will see and do together, more days of her hand in mine. I ended it with the Scottish words…Tha Goal Agam Ort. (I love you. I had to practice....a lot!)
Behind those vows lay a City Parks and Recreation card that we'll use to take the wee ones to play miniature golf and swim in the lazy river at the pool. Rylen is too little yet.
Tucked in there somewhere is a vertigo patch for those moments when dizziness and nausea overcome me because the crystals in my ear have rolled into the wrong place. You remember those games we had as a kid where you rolled the bb around in the little plastic case trying to put that bb in the clown's mouth?
Yeah, that's my ear and my equilibrium occasionally gets thrown out of whack. Slap a patch behind my ear and in a few hours and I'm good to go.
Hiding behind all that are a few business cards. A blue and white card labels me as my fire department Director of Safety and Training with the rank of Captain.
I'm thankful for that one because it allowed me to continue my career after I blew out those two vertebrae with a boot to the door in search of a possible victim. Now I teach others to 'use a tool' instead. It's much less painful.
The other business card is for our produce farm with the moto "Growing Our Roots". My wife's family has occupied that farm for almost a hundred years. Her ancestors were part of the settlers that carved out our small community from tall timbers and rocks in the Allegheny Mountain frontier. They made a life and grew their family in good soil on the top of a gorgeous mountain. Today, we carry on that tradition that started when her great grandparents and the generations after that, farmed potatoes, raised dairy cows and strawberries. Our farm grows fresh produce that is sold to local school systems and restaurants. We helped form a cooperative where other farms in our area can combine their harvest with ours, to fill a greater need. We also revived another part of her heritage with the U-Pick strawberry operation.
Cars line the driveway early in the morning for the chance to pick a warm, fresh strawberry.
The card is worn and won't likely be passed on to anyone, but it grounds me as part of that continuing legacy I married into, as her wife.
My wallet isn't even that big. It's no where near the size my grandfathers was. His had small notes and scraps of paper and more pictures than I have, including one of me in a little sailor's dress with drool running out the side of my mouth down onto the front of the outfit similar to this.
There were pictures of his other grandchildren and his engineering certificate. A life well lived in that soft worn leather.
My mother carries a purse that I affectionately nicknamed 'the cinder block'.
It weighs about that much and has everything she could need for almost any emergency. Her wallet is full of notes and phone numbers, cards and maybe a picture or two of me as a kid. She's a woman you want on your team if you are playing that scavenger hunt game where you are looking for some obscure object or item.
My point to all this is- each of us compartmentalizes things, categorizes things, and holds certain things close to us at all times. We have memories we find a way of reminding ourselves of. I'm a romantic. Almost anyone who knows me understand that. Maybe it's why I find writing lesbian romance so inviting. I can put all those feelings down and share it with the world. My wallet is just a microcosm of that as I carry my wedding vows and other romantic notions around it in. I can't say I carry it close to my heart as it's mostly resting in a pocket of the typical lesbian attire of my cargo shorts, but I rarely am without it.
These objects I carry, tether me to the things that keep my life moving as keep me grounded in a firm foundation. When you take your last breath, what will tie you to the things you held most dear? I know what's in mine and why.
My second novel is off to the editor and I'm working on my third. If you are so inclined, my Goldie Finalists Debut Novel, 'frame by frame' is available at your favorite outlet.