(Wait, wait. Let me interrupt myself to talk about “billfold,” which my grown children think is a hilarious word. Why, they ask, would you call your wallet a billfold? Especially when it’s long and narrow, as mine is, and the paper money lies flat? Billfold is an old-timey word, they say. I shrug and reply that they should be glad I say “purse” instead of “pocket book,” which is what generations of women ahead of me called it. And, because I won’t let the subject drop, I also point out that we old folks still call paper money “folding money.”)
Anyway. I opened the billfold and found three fairly crisp dollar bills, which was a good thing since the money machine tends to reject any that are wrinkled and worn. I slid the first two into the slot. But just as I was about to do the same with the third bill, I noticed something strange.
Someone had written on it.
I struggled to decipher the cursive handwriting. “To my sweet Ashley, May you always have a dollar,” the words to the left of George Washington’s face said. And, to the right, “in your wallet and know that you are loved.”
For some reason, those words brought such a lump to my throat that I couldn’t bear to spend this special dollar on something so fleeting as a car wash. I put the bill aside and dropped four quarters into the money machine instead. And while I sat through the wet-soap-rinse cycle, I pondered who might have written those words on a dollar bill and why. Though I’ll likely never know the answers to any of these questions, I can’t help but wonder:
- Was the gift-giver a man or a woman?
- What age was he or she? The fact that the words were written in cursive in a somewhat shaky hand makes me think it probably wasn’t a young person, though I can’t know that for sure.
- Is Ashley a man or a woman? These days, you hardly ever hear of a male child being named Ashley. But those of us who have read and re-read “Gone With the Wind” know that wasn’t always the case.
- Was Ashley the gift-giver’s child? Grandchild? Friend? Lover?
- When were the words written? The bill says SERIES 2009 so it couldn’t have been more than seven years ago.
- Where does the person who wrote on the bill live? Had it travelled to Cookeville from somewhere exotic like Alaska or Hawaii or is it a local dollar? And on the outside chance it spent most of its life in Putnam County, and if its previous owner still lives here and reads the Herald-Citizen, what are the chances he or she will contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org?
- Last but not least, why did Ashley spend this dollar bill instead of keeping it? That, dear readers, is a question to build an entire novel around. Or at least a short story. But, alas, I’ve run out of room to speculate in this column. I can only hope that Ashley didn’t let the dollar go on something so fleeting as a car wash.
(June 5, 2016)