My ten year old is obsessed with the Recession. When we’re driving in the car and NPR runs an economy story, she insists that I turn it up. She quizzes me on our current family finances and wants to know if we’re going to lose the house this year.
“Mom,” she said to me yesterday, “can you get fired?”
“I suppose so,” I said. “I mean, if enough schools don’t like my workshops I could get fired from being a teaching artist.”
“No,” she said. “Can you get fired from being a writer?”
“Well, it’s not fired, exactly. But people could hate my books and not buy them. And then it would be hard for me to sell another book. So that’s kind of like getting fired.”
At this point, Ella looked downright distressed. “No,” she said, “I mean, could someone ever say you aren’t a writer anymore, and then you wouldn’t be?”
“It doesn’t quite work like that,” I explained. “There’s some jobs that you need a license in order to do them. If a doctor loses her license, then she’s no longer a doctor. If a lawyer gets dis-barred, he’s no longer a lawyer. But some jobs you have because you’ve decided to have them. Your dad decided to start a business. I decided to be a writer. We might not make a lot of money, but at least no one can fire us. Because we decided.”
“Can I decide to get a scholarship to college?”
“No,” I said, “but you could try for it.”
“Could I decide to have a bigger allowance?”
Then, this morning, Ella came down from brushing her teeth and stood in front of me doing a pirouette with a flourish. “Mom,” she said, “our money troubles are over!”
“Indeed, my love?”
“I’ve discovered the perfect get-rich-quick scheme!”
“Fabulous,” I said. “What is it.”
She held a finger up and held her breath, allowing anticipation to build. She gave me – I swear to god- a Snake Oil Salesman’s grin and a wink. “Grrrrrrreeting Cards!” she said. My little golden haired huckster.
My skepticism went unnoticed. “People will pay a fortune for a good greeting card.”
“Hmmmm.” She pressed her fingers to her lips, running the numbers in her head. “If I quit school now, would I still be able to go to college?”
She sighed. “Well, then, I’ll just have to do them on the bus.” And with that, she slipped on her jacket and tripped outside into the schoolbus waiting for her, it’s red lights flashing in the dark, cold rain.