Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If my cabinets are cluttered, it's probably Debbie Reynolds fault.

Growing up in Colorado, I was very aware of the story of Margaret Brown - a child of Irish immigrants who grew up very poor, promised herself she'd marry for money but then fell in love with and married a child of Irish immigrants who was also very poor. Of course the reason we know about them is that they didn't end up poor at all - because her husband discovered a gigantic seam of ore and the owners of the mine he worked at rewarded him with a bunch of money, stocks and a position on the board of the company.

If you're not from Colorado (or maybe if you are) you probably know her better by the nickname given to her by the folks who wrote a musical about her, Molly - as in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Remember Debbie Reynolds jumping on the bed and screaming "And if that house is red and has a big brass bed...?" Of course, the real Molly Brown probably did not jump on her bed at all - most poor people who get money sort of appreciate the furniture - but she did do all kinds of amazing things including survive the sinking of the Titanic, fight for women's suffrage and show the old-school socialite Denver beeshes a thing or two about how real ladies should behave. The house she had in Denver is now a museum and is just a few blocks from mine, so I pass it all the time and think of her.

Mostly what I think about is that the very first time her husband brought home a pile of money, she freaked out. She didn't know where to keep it. She'd never had any and thought she should hide it. So she put it in the most secure place in their meager cabin, the place no one would ever look: The stove. You know where this is going, right? Her husband comes home from celebrating with the boys, decides to warm up the place, starts a fire and burns up their newly acquired fortune.

I think of this every time I pass her house. I think of this every time I take money from the ATM and stuff it recklessly in my pocket, I think of this when my children squirrel away money in weird places. And I think of Molly Brown when I order Chinese food. Because of this peculiar, historically-based obsession, I have this in my cupboard.

Because of Molly Brown, I find it impossible to throw away a fortune cookie. Because what if one of them says, "you will discover a seam of ore" or "hey dumbass - you left your wallet in the stove." I don't feel obligated at all to EAT them. Or even read them. But I keep them. Which comes in handy when there's nothing for school lunches or the trick-or-treat basket runs dry, but otherwise, even I gotta admit it's really, really weird.


  1. I keep packets of soy sauce.

    Oh, and my husband is always finding money in my pockets when he takes laundry out of the dryer. Now I know who to blame. I did watch that money a lot as a kid...

  2. I would love to see the look on the Trick-or-Treater when they receive a fortune cookie. I think most kids would expect candy but you're giving two treats in one. A cookie and a fortune!



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