This story is one of the saddest things I remember from my childhood and it's still difficult for me to think about. I don't remember ever going hungry, or being without clothing, and we had shelter from the elements; however, Daddy, somehow, had made us believe we had no money to spend on frivolous things. Keep this in mind as you read ...
Each Monday morning Mama tied 75 cents in the corner of a handkerchief for me to pay for my lunches. Today she had put in 80 cents because she didn't have the correct change, and Miss Ruth had given a nickel back to me and I tied it in the handkerchief. During the noon recess the sixth grade class sold candy; I never asked for money to buy candy, but on this day I remembered the nickel when it came time for my class to buy candy. Mama hadn't told me not to spend it; surely it would be all right if I bought some candy, so this time I went with the other children to buy something.
There were many kinds of candy and I wanted something that would last a long time, so I finally chose a roll of Lifesavers. I untied the handkerchief, took out the nickel, and paid for the candy, then went back to the classroom and unrolled the end of the wrapper. I took out the first of the drops and put it into my mouth. Oh, the wonderful, cherry-flavored goodness of that candy! I closed my eyes and let the sweetness float on my tongue as the candy dissolved.
But before I could finish eating the Lifesaver, I began to think about the money. Mama hadn't told me I could spend it; maybe I had stolen the money from Mama! I had to get the money back somehow!
Quickly I swallowed what was left of the Lifesaver, carefully folded the end of the wrapper over the remaining candy and took it to Miss Ruth. I told her I had forgotten that I couldn't spend the nickel; could I give the candy back and get the money for it? I fumbled with the roll of candy and didn't look up at the teacher. She took the candy and asked if I opened it. I told her "No" but she could tell that the candy had been opened and that some of it was missing. "I can't return your money; go back to you seat and if you ever do something like this again, I will have to paddle you," she had said. And, she kept the candy.
What had been so wonderful and pleasing only a few minutes before was now sickening. I wished I could wash the taste of that terrible Lifesaver out of my mouth! When I got on the bus I was afraid Wanda would see my tongue, for I was sure it was still red and my breath must smell like cherries. I kept my face turned toward the window and wondered how I would explain to Mama about the money.
I knew it would be best to just tell Mama, so I began. "This morning you put too much money..I bought candy..I ate a piece of it..told Miss Ruth I didn't open it..and I started crying. Mama put her arms around me and said, "I'm sorry you told a lie; we've pinched pennies for so long that you thought you had done something wrong by spending the nickel. But don't ever lie; no amount of money is worth telling a lie."
(Sorry this was so long...To this day I find it very hard to spend money on myself)