A Year in Receipts

Here’s the only thing I like about tax season: going over receipts.

Well I don’t love this job, it’s tedious, time-consuming, and always feels like a lot of investment on little return – does it really matter if I claim $437 in supplies rather than $430? How much does that affect my return? Does it translate to half a cent? Not worth my time.

But that attitude right there is why I’m a lousy businessperson.

Anyway what I love about it is finding a receipt that reminds me of a good time.

There are the bigger events: a family trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame. A day at Sturbridge Village with Grammy. An end-of-summer trip to our favorite local zoo and the Friendly’s meal that came after, when we were hot and exhausted from walking around all day, and how good that food tasted because we earned it.

But I think it’s the little moments that mean even more when they come back. I found a receipt for Dunkin’ Donuts and it was on Christmas Eve. I thought, what the heck was I doing there on Christmas Eve, I must have had 100 other things to do at that time. Then I remembered we had to get a last-minute gift card and the boys were restless, so I told them if they gave me an hour to wrap presents we’d go for their favorite treat.

We sat at a table by the sunny window and had a really nice quiet moment to connect in all the chaos that is the Christmas season. I remember there were ornaments hanging all over and we played “which one are you.” And how that little bit of time enjoying a cup of coffee and donuts was so good for us all, and how much easier it was to get on with the 100 things that needed to be done because we’d had a little quality time.

There was the day when the boys and I went to Central Park with their Auntie. We didn’t have a real agenda, we just wanted to visit, so we went to find a very cool slide built into the rocks that we’d discovered once before. Then we found another playground, and Older Son made a natural rock wall his playground as well. We got popsicles and pizza slices and had a sleepover and stayed up late watching movies and got real bagels in the morning.

There was the day we played mini-golf with dear family friends who we don’t get to see often enough, but Pirate’s Cove has become our yearly tradition. And here, the caramel apple I bought for Younger Son on our Maine vacation, and how he waited all year for that apple, and how much joy that silly apple gave him.

And then we realized that all he did was eat the caramel off, so next time we just got him a bag of caramels for a fraction of the price. (But you know I’ll be buying another apple for him ASAP when we go back.)

There was a rare day of dress-shopping and lunch with my sister. Now that we’re grownups with busy adult lives we never get that sisters-only time anymore. Either the kids or husbands or parents or other family are with us, which is lovely, but there’s something different about sisters. And when you don’t get that time, you miss it.

And then, just a few months ago, another visit to friends we don’t get to see often enough. It was one of the first wintry days in December and we went to Great Barrington to see their new (-ish…I told you we don’t see them often enough) condo. We loudly made fools of ourselves in the diner playing “Would you rather…” on Older Son’s iPod. The flakes were swirling as we window-shopped and our friend gleefully dragged both boys into her favorite candy store (yes she’s a grownup). We laughed and laughed all the way home and after all the inappropriate ten- and seven-year-old boy jokes I swore they’d never invite us back. But they did.

So that was my year. Those little memories, the ones I might have forgotten otherwise, make it worth having to account for every cent. And I’m actually in a very happy mood despite that giant, messy pile of receipts that’s been hounding me for weeks.

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