Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Money .....

When my grandfather died in 1993, we found that he'd saved several letters and telegrams that my mother had sent to him and my grandmother.  It's hard to imagine now, when everyone tweets, texts and instagrams constantly, but a half-century ago, many people didn't have private phone service.  When they did, they were required (thanks, Ma Bell!) to rent their equipment from the phone company -- and long distance calls were VERY expensive.

This kind of luxury was not within my parents' meager budget, so when my mother needed to contact her parents, she did so in writing.  Letters could take several days to arrive, so when it was an emergency, she'd send a telegram -- C.O.D.

 Another brief history lesson:  "C.O.D." = "Cash on Delivery", meaning that the person to whom the telegram was sent would be responsible for paying for it.  Similar to a collect phone call, it was accompanied by a higher rate than if the person placing the call (or sending the telegram) paid the cost upfront.  But it's what you do when you can't afford to pay the cost yourself.
The telegrams my mother sent had a common theme -- each one contained a plea for financial assistance.  The amounts were low:  $25.00 ... $30.00 ... just enough to get by in addition to whatever funds she already had.
Her parents obliged as much as possible, though her mother never passed up an opportunity to remind her daughter that they were not "made of money" and that she was disappointed her daughter wasn't able to support herself.
I know in my heart that my mother hated having to ask for money, especially knowing that if it were given, it would be done so grudgingly; and obviously, I have no way of knowing how many times our situation was dire enough that she felt she had no choice other than to ask.
But it saddens me that she had to ask at all.