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The Little Millionaire Next Door

Mommy would slip into the dressing room at Macy’s or Bloomingdales or Saks or Penny’s with an armful of fancy dresses and pants suits and blouses and two tags in her fists -- one that allowed her to bring in six items, and a second that made it so I could vouch for a half dozen more. And then she’d prop me up in the corner and, for what seemed like hours, she’d climb in and out of one outfit and then into the next, twirling and striking glorious poses that would make supermodel Tyra Banks take pause.

She was stunning, my mother -- tall and slender and lithe. Those pretty church dresses and pastel suits and Jordache skinny jeans always fit her just so, which meant that she always ended up at the register with a majority of her haul and a fistful of plastic magic.

And what did I get out of these glorious shopping jaunts? A ice cold double-scoop of strawberry Baskin Robbins, and an ice cold warning not to tell my Dad about all the pretty clothes she routinely stowed away in the trunk until the coast as clear (read: she could sneak her myriad of purchases into the house when my Dad was sleep/working/otherwise too preoccupied that her wardrobe and wicked shoe collection grew by at least 15 percent every payday.

Yup, Mommy was totally all, “Hello, my name is Bettye, and I’m a shopaholic.” And I was her faithful enabler.

I’d love to pretend like her wanton spending sprees didn’t affect me, but, um -- yeah. Let’s just say that when I see pretty things, I want said pretty things. And if I have the money to buy those pretty things? I’m buying those pretty things.

Except that thanks to technology, my husband Nick, who checks our bank account statements online practically more than he googles, can pin down my purchases before I even make it to the parking lot. What do you know about the post purchase phone call -- “Um, what did you just buy at Anthropologie?”

But what’s worse is that in some screwed up twist of fate, the karmic Gods sent me an IRS agent for a daughter -- Mari. I mean, this kid keeps tabs on my spending like she’s got a job and I’m using her cash. Or like her Daddy put her up to it. Witness:

Me: *strolling through Francesca, fingering the leather purses and drooling over the rack of summer blouses so fresh and so new they hadn’t even been matriculated into the rest of the clothing racks. *

Mari: You’re supposed to be buying a present for my teacher.

Me: *Tossing a mean side-eye * Ooo-kaaay. But this purse is so cute and that shirt would go perfect with my blue capris and I’ve been looking for a cute dress for a minute so I’m going to try these on right quick.

Mari: *Silent. Slow blinks. * Okay, but that’s it, or I’m going to have to tell Daddy… *

Uh huh. That’s my Mari. Always looking out for her damn Daddy.

I’ve tried to ignore these little snide comments -- to let my light shine bright and the sparkles fill the air regardless of her threats. I’ve even offered sugary treats and a clothing item of her choosing -- to no avail. Alas, her allegiance is to frugality and her father.

Which is why I’m going to start leaving her butt home and taking my shopaholic-in-the-making Lila on my more clandestine shopping trips. Wave a blue Baby Bottle Pop in her face, promise her a pair of cute shoes or just let her spend the little three dollars she always seems to have stuffed in her jean, burning a little hole in her pocket, and she’s all in. Hell, she’ll even give some pretty sound fashion advice -- “Oh, mommy, the orange is way cuter on you than that yellow.”

I heart her. She’s all Team Mommy, all the time.

But I have to admit it is nice to have a daughter who recognizes the value of a dollar and holds onto her little pennies. She’s got such a firm handle on the worth of things, and won’t dare spend her money -- or mine! -- on stuff she feels she doesn’t need or she thinks isn’t worth the cost. It’s such an odd little characteristic for a 10-year-old, but a useful one nonetheless.

For sure, if Mari keeps this attitude about cash, she just might grow up to be the millionaire next door.

No thanks to her mother.

*Fingers the leather on the orange purse and lets it dangle on my arm *

I’m going to try to be better.

Promise.

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