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 Chicken Soup for the Soul The Price of a Child

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Donna
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PostSubject: Chicken Soup for the Soul The Price of a Child   Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:29 pm

“Daddy, how much did I cost?”

Perched on my parents’ cedar chest in the bedroom, I listened to their casual talk about budgets and paychecks―talk as relevant back in 1967 as it is today. My then-six-year-old mind concluded, wrongly, that my family was poor.


Dad stood at his dresser, looking at bills. He wore faded jeans, an undershirt and white canvas shoes stained grass-green from mowing our lawn. Mom folded laundry on the bed, making even towers of sun-dried clothes. I spotted my new shorts sets and thought about day camp.

Their money talk continued, and Dad joined me on the cedar chest. I plunked the springy metal watchband on Dad’s tan wrist, thinking that the white skin underneath reminded me of a fish belly. Just as I started to ask him to “make a muscle” so I could try pushing his flexed biceps down, a thought hit me like icy water from a garden hose: Dad had to pay for me.

While the story of my birth ranked as a bedtime favorite, I had never considered hospital bills, or the countless meals I’d eaten, or the price of summer clothes.

“Daddy,” I interrupted again, “how much did I cost?”

“Oh, let’s see.” He sighed in distraction and placed his watch on the safety of his dresser. “About a million dollars.”

A light went out inside me. A million dollars. Because of me, Dad worked two jobs. Because of me, he drove an old car, ate lunch at home and had his dress shoes resoled―again.

With my eyes and chin down, I inched off the cedar chest and shuffled into the kitchen. From a shelf, I took my granny-shaped bank, which held every penny I owned―seven dollars even. And not seven dollars in assorted change, but seven cool, shiny silver dollars, one for every birthday and one for the day I was born.

The bank’s rubber plug surrendered, and the coins poured into my hands. I had often played with these coins in secret, jostling them in a small drawstring bag in my roles as gypsy or runaway princess. They had always been put back in the bank, though, and I felt secure pleasure in just knowing they were there. But that day, the “clink” of returning each coin sounded hollow.

If the topic had changed when I returned to my parents’ bedroom, I didn’t notice. Tugging on Dad’s shirt, I held out my first payment on a million dollars.

“Here,” I sniffed. “Maybe this will help pay for me.”

“What?” Dad’s confused look matched my own. Didn’t he remember what he’d said? Didn’t the sight of me remind him of how much I cost?

My tear-filled eyes, which I couldn’t seem to take off the bank, finally made sense to him.

Dad knelt down and pulled me close. “You didn’t cost a million dollars, but you’re worth a million-million dollars. And if that’s what I’d have to pay for you, I’d do it. Now dry those eyes and put your bank away.”

Today, I often pull this memory out, turn it over and feel the warm satisfied weight of it in my heart. Back then, no price could be put on my worth to my dad. No price can be put on his worth to me now.
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PostSubject: Re: Chicken Soup for the Soul The Price of a Child   Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:37 pm

Chicken Soup for the Soul The Cat in the Bag



Aunt Faye and her cat Sophie were inseparable. In fact, though Aunt Faye never had any children, Sophie was like a child to her.

I have to admit that the cat was amazing. Sophie always knew when Aunt Faye wasn't feeling well. In fact, Sophie even knew when Aunt Faye's feet were cold at night. Because that cat would snuggle up at her feet in bed, Aunt Faye used to call Sophie her "bed warmer." My aunt was sort of hard of hearing, so when anyone came to the door of her apartment, Sophie ran to the door to alert her.

Good old Sophie the cat was getting on in years. My aunt would call me from time to time to ask me to drive Sophie and her to the veterinarian. In fact, I think she took better care of Sophie than herself. If Aunt Faye didn't feel well, she wouldn't go to the doctor; she would just take an aspirin. But should Sophie sneeze or cough with a hairball in her throat, we were on our way to the vet almost immediately.

So it came as a bit of a shock when Aunt Faye called me crying hysterically "Sophie is dead! My little Sophie is dead!"

Between sobs, Aunt Faye explained, "You know I don't sleep so good at night. So the doctor gave me some sleeping pills. I didn't like the way they smelled so he told me to put a drop of vanilla extract into the bottle to make the pills taste like candy. So this morning when I was cooking in the kitchen, Sophie got into my bedroom and accidentally knocked over my bottle of sleeping pills. They must have smelled good to her because she ate almost every last one of them. The empty bottle was on the floor next to her."

Aunt Faye was still crying uncontrollably. "You know how long my Sophie and I have been together?" Not even waiting for my answer she said, "We've been together for twelve years. Yesterday, I even bought her a new cat food. They said this cat food was softer for older cats...her teeth have started to fall out like mine. Do you know how much Sophie meant to me?"

I sympathized with her.

"Now what can I do?" she sobbed.

"I'm so sorry, Aunt Faye, there isn't much you can do. Put Sophie's body in a paper bag, and place it in the garbage can in the basement. The sanitation department will take her away."

"What?" she screamed. "My Sophie in a garbage can? She was like my child. Since your uncle passed away, she's been my closest friend for all these years. I can't just put her in the garbage!"

"Okay," I said. "I'm working very late tonight so I won't be able to get over to your house. However, if you'll feel better about it, take a taxi to your veterinarian and ask him to have Sophie taken to the animal cemetery. I'll provide the money for the plot and the burial."

The tears continued. "Will I be able to visit her from time to time?"

"Sure. I'll take you to the pet cemetery any time you want to go."

"How can I take Sophie to the vet? Her carrying case fell apart a few years ago."

"Put her in your old suitcase. It's not too big and Sophie will fit perfectly."

"Will there be a funeral?"

"No, dear. The vet calls the people from the pet cemetery. They'll put Sophie in a little casket and take her to the cemetery."

"Okay," she muttered with a broken heart. "It will be dignified?" she asked.

"Yes, it will," I said.

That was it. I felt bad for her, but there was nothing more I could do.

About six o'clock that evening, Aunt Faye called me at my office. "Arnold, I have something to tell you." Strangely, I sensed excitement in her voice.

"Did you go to the vet?" I asked.

"I did just like you said. I put Sophie in my suitcase. I was standing by the bus stop waiting for a cab, so I figured, Why spend money for a taxi when I could certainly take the bus? So I put the suitcase down next to me and started to look into my purse to see if I had the exact change. While I was looking in my pocketbook, some teenage boys came up behind me. One threw me to the ground and grabbed my suitcase with Sophie inside!"

"Oh no, Aunt Faye! Did you get hurt?"

"Just a few scratches. Nothing serious. I yelled for the police, but nobody came. So what could I do? I figured this was the way my relationship with Sophie was supposed to end. So I went home."

"I don't believe this!" I said, trying to hold back my laughter. "Can you imagine the expression on those kids' faces when they opened the suitcase and found a dead cat?"

She started to laugh. Aunt Faye was actually laughing!

"Wait, wait -- that's only part of the story. Sophie came home! She really wasn't dead! I only thought she was dead because she was lying so still when I found her in the bathroom this morning. Being jostled back and forth in that suitcase must have finally roused her. When I got back to the house, she was waiting at my door!

"Arnold, thank you for all your help. I prayed for Sophie to enter heaven, and she came back to me."

The next time I went to visit Aunt Faye, she had a little sign on her front door that read, "This is heaven."
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PostSubject: Re: Chicken Soup for the Soul The Price of a Child   Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:42 pm

I love Chicken Soup for the Soul, do you have one you love that you would like to share? if so post it here.
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