Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's The Real Thing rerun

I've had Walker on my mind a lot today. The house is quiet. I wonder how camp is going. I didn't pack any self addressed notes this year, because they've come home unused the last few years.

A week away isn't all that long, except for the coke issue. Walker packed a small cooler with several diet cokes, both with and without caffeine, but I'm not sure whether he got to keep them. Even if he did, they wouldn't last but a day or two. I know I'd be miserable if I were stuck somewhere with no iced tea.

The issue with cokes began in his teens, about the time he started having some money of his own. He rarely passed up an opportunity to buy a drink in the machine at church, and liked to ride his bike to the country store near our home. It wasn't much of a problem, because he usually only had enough money for one or two at a time.

Then he came into some real money.

We were at Southern Methodist University for Sarah's Parent's Weekend. After the football game, we were invited to a really nice tailgate party with Memphis Bar B Que, and a Texas band.

It was hot as blue blazes in Dallas that weekend, and no one was dancing to the Texas band hired for the occasion. Our host took the mike and announced that he was going to have a dance contest, and that the prize would be a hundred dollars. Walker’s ears perked up, and out he trotted to the dance floor in the parking lot. He wanted that hundred dollars. That might be enough to buy a video camera, and he knew how to dance.

Walker joined several others in competing for the prize. Sarah danced with him for a while, and when she tired of it, our host's daughter became his partner. When Gwen gave out, Walker danced on his own, doing a variety of moves that he had seen on television. I stayed in the RV where it was cool, mostly hoping that Sarah wasn’t embarrassed at his antics.

When the prize was announced, two winners were selected: Walker, and an attractive young couple from Houston were each awarded a crisp hundred dollar bill. We were all astounded when the young couple presented Walker with the money they had won. Sarah was aghast. Walker had two hundred dollars, and she had a seventy dollar phone bill to pay.

”Hey Walker, since I was your partner, how about giving me one of those hundred dollar bills.”

Walker eyed her skeptically and then reached in his pocket. “How about a five,” he offered. Sarah just rolled her eyes and didn’t press him any further.

Later, as we drove back to campus, Walker quietly slipped one of the hundred dollar bills into his sister’s hand. The other one was his, and no matter how much I urged him, he refused to give it to me for safe keeping. For almost three months he kept it beside his bed in a little box.

One cold November day, Walker asked for permission to ride to the store to buy a coke. I was so pleased with my success in persuading him to ask permission to leave the house before taking off that I rarely denied his requests. As he rode off down the driveway I noticed that he had thought to put on a heavy jacket. Walker was back in about ten minutes, but instead of slipping into his room by way of the back stairs as usual, he came into the kitchen.

“I don’t have my hundred dollar bill anymore.”

“What,” I snapped, “did you lose it? Is it somewhere in your room?” I was angry with myself for not being more insistent that he let me keep it in a safe place for him. I also visualized having to sort through all of his junk in a search for his money.

“Nope,” he announced with a big grin as he opened his jacket, revealing the soft drink cans stowed there. “I bought five cokes with it!”

“You did WHAT! Walker, where is your money?” I demanded.

“I spent it,” he patiently explained to me once again, “on five cokes.”

I attempted to stay calm enough to get some information out of him about his purchases.

“Walker, did they give you any change?” I asked, hoping that we wouldn’t have to deal with the people at the store to get his money back.

Umhum,” he said as he reached in his pocket and produced several coins. I had a sinking feeling, but I didn’t want to lose his cooperation at this point.

“Is that all they gave you?”

Umhum,” he answered again as he began to edge out of the room, tired of the inquisition.

“No, Walker, I mean did they give you any dollars, any bills?”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied coolly as he produced the rest of the money from this coat pocket. I quickly counted the money and verified that he had indeed gotten all the change back. Ninety six dollars in small bills. Walker was happy to be the proud owner of five cokes, his dream of a video camera temporarily forgotten.

I hope he's able to somehow get a coke or two at camp. If not, I hope he'll learn, as the rest of us have, that the experience is worth the sacrifice.


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