January 5, 2011
“Mommy, my friend Zari got some ticket that has promised to win him a billion dollars.”
“You mean a lottery ticket?”
“Yes- it’s going to win him a billion dollars!”
“You said that already. But it’s not going to win him that much. It probably won’t win him anything.”
“But mommy- please please please can we call Zari as soon as we get home to find out if he is now a billionaire?”
Upon arriving home from school my 8 year old son, obsessed with hearing if Zari had the winning numbers for the mega million drawing, spent a half an hour trying to get through to the Goodman’s house until Zari finally picked up the phone. Meir was so sure his friend was going to be a billionaire and obsessed over this prospect for so long.(In eight year old time- long is twenty minutes, this thirty minute window had meant his waiting had already gone into century time.) When he finally reached his friend with gushing excitement I thought his imaginary bubble of outrageous expectation might pop. Of course Zari was not a billionaire, he did not have a winning ticket, and my poor eight year old was left with nothing but the thought that his friend of five years might have sold him a bill of goods.
Trying to salvage what was left of my poor child’s disappointment I suggested we take a little trip to 7-11. You know the place that sells Laffy Taffy’s, Slurpees, and SCRATCHERS? I was having a nostalgic moment of remembering the first time I had learned as a child of the possibility of money coming easy to me if I just chose a few random numbers or scratched the right ticket. The possibilities of success just seemed endless! The key word to that sentence is endless- as in it never actually happens. (Except to mean people, which was already discovered in my other article “Winning the Lottery is a big failure”.)
But seeing my child’s fallen face, I couldn’t help but get swept away in his innocent belief that had overtaken me once so long ago. The next thing I know I am reminiscing over the scratchers my father bought me, I’m getting farklempt, I see my kid’s tears and there we are buying ten bucks worth of cardboard paper, just one scratch away from our possible destiny. Of course, I also bought one mega million ticket. And I wasn’t a total failure as a parent, I made my kid use his own Chanukah money to buy his scratchers. This is the same child who has saved seven years worth of Draidle gelt and has not spent a penny on anything except his obligated ten percent to charity. He is working on saving every last dollar during his childhood so when he’s older he never has to actually work, and he can invest it in his billionaire plan.
“Meir, what are you going to do with all your money once you’re a grown up?”
“Ma- I told you, I’m gonna buy a house.”
I figured if he was going to lose ten bucks, it would hurt so badly, that this little adventure could not and would not possibly turn into a gambling obsession. He would still understand the meaning of working for money and spending it wisely. I was so safe on this one.We walk into 7-11, I turn to the Arab and say- “Three scratchers, one mega million.” It was like a slow motion moment. From the second my kid handed him the money to the instant those scratchers were put into my hand- my kid turned into a junkie. He was popping out of his skin. He was practically climbing the Laffy Taffy aisle like some crack addict hopped up on heroine.
“Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me…”
I told him we’d go home, sit down and have dinner and then enjoy our scratching together like a family. He was convulsed with irritating nagging for the next fifteen minutes until we arrived at home.
“Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me….”
I began to grow concerned. These lotto tickets had better NOT win, or I will have just committed my eight year old to gambling anonymous. They take away your mommy title for that sort of thing. I was sure child protective services was on to me, and we hadn’t even taken out our jagged edged quarter yet. Finally we sit down and he gets to the scratching. I of course am still in reminiscent mode and remembering my first scratching experience with my dad. Tears come into my eyes, I am having such a sweet moment with my own son until- he throws it on the floor.
“Give me another one.”
Scratching resumes, again music plays in my head, and I am right there with my dad, I’m eight slurping a cherry coke and eating my snickers, and-
“Give me another one, this one didn’t work, where’s another one?!!.”
Finally the last ticket. He scratches all the numbers off and I am thinking, we are home free- cause this new bonding time is just not measuring up to my childhood memory. Meir seems obsessed to a degree that looks volatile. I am beginning to question my ability as a parent, and my father’s ability as a parent. I’m picturing headlines “Mother gets arrested for exposing her kid to absurd expectations- eight year old boy caught running a casino.”
“Mommy, I think I won, I won! What does this mean? These numbers are matching- right?”
“You won. Oh you won alright. It means you won ANOTHER TICKET.”
And so the obsession for the next forty eight hours resumed as to when we were going to hit 7-11 (like we’re some sort of mafioso) for our “free” ticket. My husband walks into the door. He’s really happy to be home until he gets wind of my child’s panhandling for a ride to 7-11. The begging, the imploring, the suffocating soliciting, this kid is worse than Jimmy Baker and his wife Tammy Faye put together. Oh the graveling.
Meanwhile, I am left feeling secretly disappointed that none of these scratchers won us squat except for another trip to 7-11. I mean, I’m still having my own nostalgic childhood moment in my head, and wouldn’t mind a few hundred dollars for a spa day, or a new sofa, or an ice cream maker. Yes I am concerned I’ve turned my child to the dark side, but I can’t help but wonder if my own mega million might just, just might be a winning ticket.
“I can’t believe I lost. Can we go back to-”
“Meir I think you’ve learned your lesson. Gambling doesn’t win.”
“Wait, there’s still hope. There’s still one more ticket-Mommy, you have a mega million ticket-”
All eyes turn to me. For the next few hours Meir implored us to go online and check to see if our ticket was indeed the winning one. The begging and pleading escalated to a high degree, to which I finally hear my dear husband say-
“Meir, this has got to stop you surely won’t win, cause tickets are not the way to earn money. It is called gambling, and you will never ever ever make money that way. “
“Dad- you are wrong- that’s exactly how I have always made money- isn’t that draidle game gambling?”
To that my husband turned to me with that mega million in his hand. (How he got it in his possession still evades me to this day- remind me to hide my goodies next time.) I recognized that look, it was the “I gotta teach my kid a lesson for all time look-” And then he held that ticket, that mega million ticket, that ticket that I could have won, that I could have bought a new sofa AND an ice cream maker with, and he tore it up into a million little pieces. (million is good for something, turns out.) My kid’s eyes swelled a few tons larger, he looked at me, and tried to find any hint of disappointment in my own gaze. I hid it as best as I could- I’m good like that, and Meir let out a disheartening sigh. The next day after the lotto fiasco was over. Robbie and I were feeling like really good parents. While we were expecting a call from child protective services to give us the “parents of all time” award, Meir came home from school with this announcement:
“I have been selected as the kid of the week with the best behavior and for my reward, the Rabbi gave me a Mega million Lottery ticket.”