Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Winds of Change - Cha-Ching!

The Winds of Change


Courtney Pierce

A thirty-four-year ritual in our house will soon begin: The annual counting of the change. My husband and I amass these little discs of dreams throughout the year. The holiday rite takes place, without fail, on Christmas Eve while watching A Christmas Carol (the version with Alistair Sim). Like two Ebenezer Scrooges, we hunch over the piles of quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies, and the occasional paper clip that found its way in the bowl. Bets are made on the total haul in our quest to beat last year’s number. We don our rubber gloves to roll and roll as tears stream down our faces when Scrooge’s heart is made whole.

For twelve months of the year we pay for small items with only paper money, as long as the price is in uneven pennies. Return change is then thrown into a bowl, or three, on the bureau. The spoils are split fifty-fifty to spend however we choose. Race to the finish with a dollar purchase of mints, gum, or a package of Ramen. Yes! Three quarters back!

The meaning of the ritual changed over the years.
 Photo by Stuart Miles
In 1980 we played this game out of necessity. An extra hundred bucks at the end of the year was a welcome windfall. We were always broke; student loan payments left us with nothing to do something fun and indulgent. Do we buy a vacuum cleaner or go out to dinner? 

A few years later, having nabbed decent jobs, we spent our change booty at Tower Records in San Francisco. We’d come home with armloads of albums and beta hi-fi video tapes (superior technology to VHS, per my husband) with concert footage of our favorite bands. Completely indulgent.

Our careers grew, and so did the change kitty. In the nineties, we were told by our CPA to create a budget and save. So we did. The change went in the bank. We moved four times to grab the swinging ring of a promotion. Our change pool contributed to the renovation and decorative touches of each house. It helped to build equity and security.

The millennium approached, and our change contributed to a travel savings fund. We’d never taken a vacation—a real vacation. Time to see the world every fall: Switzerland, Britain, Italy, and Spain. It didn't get any better than walking the ruins of castles on the Isle of Skye, paid for in part by change.

Photo by Vlado
In 2001, the winds of our change blew toward others with a donation to help victims of 9/11. The wind started to blow closer to home. We lived in Houston at the time, so Hurricane Katrina’s recovery efforts received our change in 2005. In 2008, we helped our neighbors put their lives back together after another whirling dervish, Hurricane Ike. This felt good and right.
 Photo by Stuart Miles
Something started to happen, though, as we made more money and bought more gadgets. Our change spoils decreased. We’d finished rolling our coins even before Scrooge declared: “I haven’t lost my senses, Bob. I've come to them.” We had changed, and so did the change. We don’t use cash anymore. Instead, we debit, credit, auto-pay, and reward ourselves with loyalty points to make purchases in cyberspace. What happened to our change? We miss the plentiful jingle that comes with a personal smile. Thank goodness for emoticons.

But one thing didn't change. We continue to collect our coins and combine them with the donations we make to our favorite local causes. It is, after all, a tradition. We have what we need—more than what we need—but many don’t. Coins can go a long way to help our two- and four-legged friends. My husband rescued a baby owl and paid for its rehabilitation, so some of our recipients even sport wings.

Photo by Anakmll
As long as we have change, we’ll promote change.

Happy Holidays!

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer and lives in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband of thirty-four years and bossy cat. After a twenty-year career as an executive in the Broadway entertainment industry, she moved home to finally write the stories that were rolling around in her head. Courtney is currently completing a trilogy of mystery and magical realism about two Baby Boomers whose lives are forever changed by a magical artifact found at an estate sale. She is in the Hawthorne Fellows program at the Attic Institute and will be Vice President and board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association in 2014. 

Follow her series on her blog: Her first two books, Stitches and Brushes are available in soft cover and E-Book at,, and The final book of the trilogy, Riffs, is due out in spring, 2014. She is currently working on a new mystery thriller for release in 2015.

1 comment:

Caroline said...

So true, Courtney! Enjoyed this post that reminded me of how things change in my own life. Thanks for sharing! Best wishes on your books success!