13. A Fist Full of Dollars

13. A Fist Full of Dollars

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


A Fist Full of Dollars

Most grandmas have a touch of the scallywag.

~Helen Thomson

My friend, Zelda, was about to have her forty-fifth birthday party. She was a kindergarten teacher, and I volunteered a couple of years in her classroom. Her coworkers and friends decided to throw her a party.

I was excited when I got the invitation. I had never been to a birthday party that was described as “Girls’ Night Out.” At the bottom of the invitation was written, “Lots of fun and games. Bring five one-dollar bills.” I thought that was strange, but I was ready for the fun. Then I remembered that my eighty-two-year-old grandmother-in-law was coming to our home for the weekend. We were going to pick plums and peaches, and she was going to show me how to make preserves and jams.

Grandma is the perfect picture of her title. She’s from Spain, but lived in San Francisco from her teen years. She’s almost five feet tall and roly-poly, hair held in place with a hairnet, feet supported by orthopedic shoes. She always wore a dress with a full apron to protect it from whatever she was creating in the kitchen. It was Grandma’s favorite place to be, next to sitting at her kitchen table enjoying watching all of us devour her delicious meals.

I called the lady hosting Zelda’s birthday party to see if I could bring Grandma with me. She had been to other outings with this particular bunch of girls, so she wasn’t a stranger. I was told, “Of course. Bring Grandma, and make sure she brings her own five one-dollar bills.” I gave Grandma the good news, and she was excited as I was. We put a birthday gift together consisting of gift certificates for two for dinner and a movie and dessert afterward.

The big day finally came. We had our wrapped gift and tucked our dollar bills in our pockets. As we entered the house for the party, we were given party hats to wear and noise makers. Grandma and I made our way to the corner of an L-shaped sofa. Soon, Zelda the party girl came, and she got a very nice cardboard crown designating her as the birthday princess. After greeting all her guests, she sat down next to Grandma. The host announced the beginning of the games and asked everyone to display their five one-dollar bills. Grandma and I were ready to win every game possible.

Soon, music started to play, and a young man came into the room from one of the back rooms. He was wearing a very nice suit and tie, and looked quite nice. His walk started keeping tune to the music, and the girls started getting louder, shouting at him. Slowly, he began to take off his clothes! I looked at Grandma, and her eyes were glued to this young man. The birthday girl began waving one of her dollar bills, and the boy danced over to her with much of his clothing gone except a dental-floss-sized pair of briefs.

I noticed that Grandma started bouncing to the rhythm of the music as the boy got closer. As Zelda deposited her dollar in his costume, Grandma was blowing on her party favor, making it unfurl to where the tip was touching the boy’s bare stomach. She giggled so hard I could have sworn someone slipped alcohol in the birthday punch. We were drinking the same, yet our reactions were not similar. I don’t know which was more embarrassing: seeing the young man’s almost-nude body or watching Grandma with the net still in her hair, “letting her hair down.” I was sure her support stockings were probably going to end up on the floor from all the dancing she was doing while sitting on the sofa. It wasn’t long before she began grabbing for my dollar bills, and then anybody else’s she could reach. She had everybody in stitches.

The young man stuck so close to Grandma, almost dancing in her lap, that Zelda switched hats with her, which she never knew. The host provided Grandma with more dollar bills. I was a little nervous trying to think how I was going to explain the birthday party to her grandson at home and her son in the next town.

As Grandma deposited her last dollar bill, her hand disappeared into the depths of the skimpy costume, and she burst out laughing. Zelda told her she couldn’t leave her hand in there, to which Grandma replied, “I’m looking for change.”

~Gail Eynon

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