When I was a kid I stole money from my mom’s purse. I stole money from my Gammy’s purse too. I’m not proud of this. At the time I felt it was a necessary evil; a short and sharp thrill that put me in fair standing with the other kids in my universe. There wasn’t a lot of money in my life back then. I took a bus to school on the upper east side, walking whenever I lost my bus pass. I sat in a classroom with kids whose parents were CEOs, powerful lawyers, and TV stars. I was a kid from harlem who tried to fit in. Fitting in meant money.

We were not entirely poor. I think that is the key argument I’m making here. My mom had a little money. When my father was alive we had a boat and a car and went fishing at least once a month. This is the sort of thing that is unheard of for an inner city kid. After he died the money went away. It didn’t dry up. My mom just was tighter on the purse strings than he was. She was a bootstrapper and believed that I needed to make my own way. Of course I wasn’t allowed to have a job, so there was no actual way to make my own way. In truth I think she wanted me to depend on her in order to have anything. I did.

The problem with dependence is that you no longer have control of what you have. I lived in a world full of kids who had everything they wanted, and I was the kid who hung out with them and couldn’t even go to the candy store when they did. That worked okay for a while, but as we grew older and were given more freedom to wander away from the school, my friends started bringing lunches or jogging down to the hot dog cart by the MET. They changed. The social dynamic changed. My home life did not change.

That’s how I wound up taking money out of my mom’s purse.

There is more to the story there, and maybe I’ll tell it the next time I get 10 minutes.