I had my shot at an inheritance, but, in the end, my “rich” grandmother did not leave me her box of Dixie riddle cups.
Which sort of begs the question …
How do you know when someone is rich?
Is it the cars they drive?
The place they live?
The company they keep?
All of those can be signals of wealth, but they also often come with plenty of strings — debt, scrutiny, ass-kissing.
When I was a kid, I knew a few people who fell into at least one of those buckets, and, yes, most folks considered them to be “rich.”
But it didn’t take me long to realize there were other, more subtle markers of someone who had a few dimes to rub together.
Just Get a New One
Chief among those was a propensity to dispose of things.
For instance, I had a friend whose grandfather was something of a local land baron. And, while my bud and her mother drove nice cars, had nice appliances, and owned a home, their lifestyle wasn’t particularly lavish.
Except for the clothes.
Bella (let’s call her) was the best-dressed girl in school from kindergarten on through high school graduation. And … I never once saw her wear the same clothes twice, aside from her softball uniform.
She’d buy expensive clothes, wear them, store them for awhile, then donate them. Or sell them for pennies on the dollar at a garage sale. Or — ugh — just throw them away when she needed more closet space.
Bella and her momma were pretty much the same with their other everyday possessions, too — dishes, TVs, cats, dogs, toys — they were all fair game for the scrapheap if the mood struck.
I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon among other people with above-average means over the years, too. They don’t necessarily flaunt their wealth (though some surely do), but they don’t have to nurse stuff along like most folks do.
Bootstrapping to Disposability
This is not a criticism at all — just an observation from the son of a single-income family, with a dad who worked like a madman to scrape us up into the middle class.
By sheer dint of his will.
So that we, too, might get to have some disposable income, and, therefore, some disposable *stuff*.
Like Dixie cups.
Specifically, when I was in middle school, my parents saved up to redecorate our bathroom. That overhaul included new wallpaper, new carpeting, a new toilet seat, new towels, new shower curtain, new soap dispenser.
And, for the first time ever, a Dixie cup dispenser so that we didn’t have to rinse our mouths by sticking them under the faucet when we brushed.
We were living high on the hog that Spring Break when it all came together, let me tell you.
But even Dixie cups that you can buy by the 100 still cost money, which meant — for us, at any rate — that they weren’t as disposable as advertised.
So we didn’t just rinse, spit, and crumple the cup into the trash can.
No sir! Not us.
Rather, each of the three of us had our own Dixie cup, and we kept using it until the little flappy bottom pulled away from the cup side and spilled water all over the floor, or our pajamas.
Only then did we toss the cup and get a new one.
Sure, it was “thrift” taken to an extreme, but it was sorta fun — like a contest — and I was happy with it because we got to use Dixie cups.
Now, I originally caught the Dixie cup bug from my grandmother — that would be Dad’s mom.
See, Granddaddy died when I was about two years old and, once he was gone, it became pretty clear that Grandmother was rich.
Maybe not Scrooge McDuck rich, but …
I mean, she was a 50-something woman living alone in the city, yet she could afford two dogs, a new Buick every few years, Elvis velvet paintings on every other wall, a console color TV … and Dixie cups.
In Grandmother’s laundry room, right off the kitchen, hung a tall dispenser of (I think) five-ounce Dixie cups.
Being the old lady that she was, Grandmother naturally favored designs that featured flowers or diamonds or butterflies.
But once upon a time, she somehow happened onto a box of Dixie riddle cups, with cartoons and (duh) riddles on each cup.
I assume she bought these by mistake or that someone gave them to her, but, whatever the case, there they sat, year after year. They made a brief appearance in the cup holder, but then got replaced the next time Grandmother went to the store.
The Dixie riddle cups were disposable.
And I think the only reason they didn’t actually get disposed of was that I put in my claim.
I wanted to know “Why is grass so harmful?”.
I wanted to learn about the foot condition that astronauts get.
I wanted to find out what was green and sings.
Every once in a great while, Grandmother would indulge me and break out one of the riddle cups.
Mostly, though, they just languished there in the corner, waiting …
Waiting for … well, I guess for Grandmother to give up the ghost in one way or another. Certainly, as a little kid, I expected that I’d inherit those Dixie riddle cups from my “rich” granny someday.
In the ensuing years, I found out that Grandmother wasn’t really rich, but she did have a little disposable income. There were a few reasons for that …
She had been working as the main breadwinner for more than 30 years when my grandfather kicked it, and still had another 12 or so to go.
Her house was long ago paid off.
Without my grandfather, her booze and cigarette bills diminished drastically, like to zero.
So, really, it was no wonder she could afford to carry the overhead of a mostly unused box of Dixie riddle cups. Especially in the name of inheritance.
As it turned out, my grandmother lived to be almost 100, and we were all thrilled for every day we had with her, especially as the end drew near.
During that time, after Grandmother had moved to a nursing home, I was helping my dad do some cleaning at her house when we came across the old Dixie cup dispenser.
It was fully stocked with cracked and yellowed flowery, waxy cups.
But … the box of riddle cups was nowhere to be found.