Much of what I’ve learned about the ability to savor life’s delicious moments, whenever and wherever they occur, came from my mother.
This includes the capacity to savor food, music, irony, humor, the absurd, the profound … and the conscious spending of money, even when you have hardly any to spare.
Both my parents were teachers, and finances were always tight in our home when I was growing up. Every purchase—every new toy, every dinner out (a rarity), every vacation—was something bought only after careful consideration. In my mother’s eyes, the “worth spending money on” category included education, books, good food (home-cooked, with endless enthusiasm), and travel when possible.
Once, when she and my father were still newlyweds, the piano tuner come over to work on our Steinway, which had come over from Germany with my father’s mother during the war. “The tuning bill was $25,” she said when she told me this story. “I looked in our checkbook; we had just over $27. I wrote the check on the spot.” She wasn’t sure where the next bag of groceries would come from, but our piano was in tune.
Even though money might be tight, she never let that make her tight with money. When she decided to make a purchase, even if that purchase cost her dear, she made it with a spirit of totally carefree delight, as if she had all the money in the world.
One winter we learned that my father’s choir was going to be on television at Christmas time, performing Handel’s Messiah. A week or so before the broadcast, I came home from school one day and found a brand new color TV in our living room. I couldn’t believe it. We had never had a color television, and I knew we couldn’t really afford such a luxury. I asked her, “Mom, are you serious? You bought a color television?!”
She looked at me and said, “You don’t expect me to watch your father in black and white, do you?”
My mom passed from this world nearly twenty years ago, but she hasn’t lost an ounce of her capacity to make me smile — and savor.