The Precious

I’m not sure about the original George, but my Mr. Bailey is more of a spender than a saver.

My Mr. Bailey dreams about buying, too, just like George did.

I, on the other hand, am a saver.

I have come to learn neither is better than the other. Especially after more than once egregiously fretting over how to spend a generous gift certificate for so darn long it expired, and rejoicing over money well spent (think: a comfortable home purchased for a reasonable price before the real estate boom – and bust). Thankfully, both Bailey impulses have balanced the other now we’re past the first decade of our union.

Recently a funny thing happened.

Mr. Bailey often shops for the Bailey Building & Loan at Costco. His favorite part of this setup is he racks up business purchases throughout the year, and receives a modest “reward” check at the end of the year.

This year, he spent so much at Costco, he was pleasantly shocked when he received a rewards check in the three-digit range. He immediately was overburdened by the weight of The Check in his pocket. I, on the other hand, was cozily reassured by the impulse to shove it under my pillow for all eternity.

“Great!” I said, anticipating the bursting of his bubble, “Let’s save it for a while!”

Modern Mary considers how long she could save The Check.

He sighed and hung up quickly.

Several days later, he called me back.

“Soooo,” he intoned, drawing out his question in a sugary voice. “I’m at Costco. You know we got that check?”

“Uh-huh,” I answered suspiciously.

“Well, there’s this sound system here.”

I felt something deep in my gut twist. For though I know Mr. Bailey is a spender, I adore him so fervently I find it difficult to deny him the small pleasures in life. He works so hard at the Bailey Building & Loan, at being a dad and being a husband. Pushing past my discomfort, I found my voice.

“Really? I mean, we need to be smart about this. Maybe we should just hang on to The Check a little while longer. Be practical. We may have some rainy days coming and it would be nice to have it in our back pocket.”

Recognizing the wisdom in my buzz kill practically, he dejectedly agreed.

Once salvaged from the clutches of a guilt-inducing quick spend, The Check began to take on a mythical importance in our lives over the next few months.

Every visit to Costco brought new temptations, which Mr. Bailey and I both had to resist.

Modern Mary had to pull Mr. Bailey away from a flat screen TV and a sound system.

“Should The Check yield a new vacuum?” I wondered aloud one day.

“No,” was Mr. Bailey’s abrupt response.

Another: “What about if we get a new flat screen TV to replace the one in the bedroom?” he offered.

“Absolutely not,” I rebutted.

Finally, from me: “How about a new rug for the kitchen?”

Down in flames.

For months, we hemmed, we hawed, and we dreamed about what The Check would yield. Yet, in uncharacteristic-of-us twist, we didn’t spend it.

The Check became our Gollum-like Precious.

We set up rules to protect it.

Mr. Bailey couldn’t spend it without me (frustrating) and he couldn’t lose it (next to impossible). I couldn’t allocate it for something as banal as age-defying face cream and groceries; Mr. Bailey could not blow it on a weighted fitness vest and matching weights set.

Last week we returned to Costco, The Precious in hand.

We had negotiated a settlement. The Check would buy a new set of state-of-the-art pots and pans, which we sorely needed after 10 years of learning how to cook as a family with our original, chipped, handles missing, peeling pots and pans.

It was the perfect blend of practical and splurge and came after we had delayed our gratification admirably.

We approached Costco check out, The Precious and pots and pans in hand.

The clerk looked at The Check, scanned it, and put her eulogy for The Precious like this:

“Wow!” she said, “Somebody loves shopping at Costco!”

Once we got home, we flirted with the idea of buyer’s regret, then Mr. Bailey and I boxed up the old cooking set and replaced it with the shiny, heavy, new skillets and pots and saucepans, soon to be steaming with nourishment for our family, sure to be present at life’s best moments of togetherness and connection.

And we were happy.

Post-Precious bliss in the Bailey house.