John Beresford Tipton

At some point yesterday, I found myself thinking that familiar thought: If I were a millionaire, I would (fill in the blank). And then I stopped myself because it occurred to me that a million dollars isn’t really that much money these days. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t complain if someone handed me a check for a million dollars. But a house in our neighborhood recently sold for $962,000 — a stone’s throw from a cool mill. Ours isn’t worth that much, but arguably, between our CO house and our half of the AZ house, we’re probably millionaires.

You wouldn’t think a millionaire would wear shabby slippers. Or drive a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle. Or reuse gift bags. Or go behind a spouse and turn off lights. I do all of those things.

Baby Boomers, remember that television program called The Millionaire? It ran on CBS for about five years and then was syndicated for a few more years. It’s premise was that a very wealthy man gave away a million bucks each week, and then viewers watched to see how the money affected the recipients. I don’t remember a lot of details about the show because I was only 6 or 7 when it was cancelled. It didn’t purport to be reality TV because that notion hadn’t been thought up yet. It was fiction. And every week, I wished with all my heart that someone would ring our doorbell and hand Dad a check for a million bucks.

It didn’t happen, of course. Every day my dad would get up with the birds and open up the bakery and begin baking his tail off to provide for his family. Still, a girl could dream, and I did. I don’t remember what I thought I would buy if I had that kind of money to spend. Maybe a really true Barbie doll instead of the humiliating knockoff Babette doll Santa brought me one year. Or an Easy Bake Oven so that I could bake soggy cakes the size of a cookie.

According to Wikipedia, that same 1950s million dollars today that John Beresford Tipton gave away each week would be worth nearly $10 million. Take that times 52 weeks, and it seems like Mr. Tipton must have invested his money wisely. Probably Phillip Morris stocks.

A couple of years ago, Bill and I made a point of walking over to the grocery store and buying five Lotto tickets. I was so unfamiliar with the process that the customer service rep had to give me instructions. But the Lotto had gotten up above a billion dollars, and that ain’t chicken feed. It seemed worth my $5 expenditure.

We bought the Lotto tickets on Wednesday, and the drawing was that night. As we sat outside enjoying our cocktail, we had so much fun imaging what we would do with that money should we be the lucky winners. I remember we decided we would pay off all of our kids’ debts, up to and including mortgages and student loans. We also began planning the big trip that we were going to take EVERYONE on — our entire families. I think it included a cruise ship. (Hey, don’t turn up your nose. That was pre-COVID and you didn’t have to go if you didn’t want to!)

Nowadays when I think about what I would spend if I came into a lot of money, I admit that there isn’t a lot I would spend on myself. I’m not being a martyr; I just don’t have many needs. The kids’ debts would once again be paid off. A group vacation would be discussed, but, well, there’s COVID.

But there are two things on which I would spend my money: 1) a housekeeper who would come in once a week and clean my house; and 2) a chauffeur who would be available at my bidding to drive me around like Miss Daisy. When he wasn’t driving me to the grocery store or church, he could wash and polish my yellow bug.

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