Papa’s Toilet Paper

Mama’s idea about money was born and nurtured in Tiktin (Tykocin), Poland during World War I when her father was in America trying to earn enough money to bring the family over. 

It wasn’t until the war was over and Zeyde (Grandpa) earned enough money that they came to America.  She peddled in the countryside, physically carrying the store merchandise to the farmwomen and lugged the produce back on her shoulders.

Mama often referred to Der Yidisher Filisof (The Jewish philosopher)Her ideas about life with its myriad of problems, and her relationships, especially with Papa, were tinged with what Der Yidisher Filozof said about a given matter, or would have said if he had been asked. 

There was no way Papa could argue with Mama when she pulled out her over-powering, magic weapon—Der Yidisher Filozof.

So what was Mama’s philosophy about money? It was very simple.  Don't spend money you don't have.  In other words, nothing should be bought on credit.  And if you had money then it should be saved.  Naturally, we needed to feed Paul, the Polish hired hand, the chickens, and us. 

Mama never used the word zhaleven (economize) when it came to di kinder (the children), but I heard that word often when Papa wanted to know why the boys had to have the best and when it came to him and Mama, “Good enough is good enough.”

Papa vainly attempted to find Mama’s knipl (hidden money).  It was only after Papa left us for a higher place and Mama could no longer live alone that we discovered her secret hiding-place. 

There, right behind the hallway picture of Zeyde, wearing a derby hat and leaning on an elegant cane, was a large envelope glued to the back. 

Mama’s large bills were stuffed inside.  Little by little she had saved them over the years until it reached a sizeable sum.

Mama looked at us as we counted the bills.  There was a glassy stare in her eyes and we noticed a small tear go down her wrinkled cheek.  Her secret was now gone, as was Papa who no longer needed Mama’s knipl for his many financial ventures. 

While we boys do not have Mama’s strict views about money, and our wives do not have a secret knipl, Mama’s words still are in our minds whenever we have to make a major financial decision. 

Mama does not have to worry about money now.