Little Felka watched as her mother painstakingly prepared the New Year’s Day dinner. Her mother, Desdemona, saw it as her duty to hand the tradition down to her daughter.
Desdemona removed a shiny silver coin from a velvet bag and held it in the palm of her hand. “This silver dollar,” she said, “was first used by your great-great grandmother. We’ve been passing this buck for generations. It’s important that you boil it with the black-eyed peas.”
Little Felka frowned. “I don’t like black-eyed peas.”
Desdemona used the back of her hand to brush away a sweaty strand of hair from her forehead. “I don’t care much for them myself. Your father hates them.”
Little Felka nodded. Being of a curious nature, she asked, “Then how come we do this, Ma?”
Desdemona shook her head and blinked her eyes, trying to knock a big enough hole in her incredulity to allow her voice to escape. Like it was a universal truth that everyone was aware of, she said, “Why, to keep the bad luck away in the coming year, of course. Everybody knows that. What planet have you been living on?”
Little Felka fell silent, her eyes cast upward and to the left.
Too much silence unnerved Desdemona. After a few moments, she said (trying not to shout), “Penny for your thoughts!”
Little Felka focused on her mother, a tad irritated at having her reverie arrested. “Say what?”
“What were you thinking about, Sweetheart?”
“Oh, I was just thinking that you and Papa both hate your jobs. What time we have together you spend snoozing or cussing your fate. You get along with hardly any of our relatives; you can barely even stand each other. You take pills we can’t afford to alleviate your neuroses and depression. Bill collectors call constantly—when the phone hasn’t been shut off—and we panic if the cable TV goes out—”
Desdemona flapped her hands. “Lord, don’t I know it! I shudder to think what life would be like if we didn’t boil that dollar every year.”
Little Felka’s shoulders rose nearly to her ears. “Maybe we could, I don’t know, try something different?”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Sweetheart.”
Years later, when the silver dollar was passed on to Felka, she took it to a numismatist. The rare old coin was worth thousands. Felka took the money and invested it in black-eyed pea futures. She’s doing quite nicely.