The Incidental Money

In a very safe place I found a packet of cash. I was about to transfer the cash into my wallet when I saw a curious note from my mother.

"Dear Raina, Don't use this cash. These cash is antie (antique?) dollar can sell more value than its face value."

Good thing she told me because I was going to buy an iced latte and do some damage at Forever 21. Under her message was a sticker listing the amounts of European currency the envelope was once contained. Francs, Marks, Sterling, and Lire. 

I took out the $42 in USD. Nothing unusual except the $2 bill and some dollars with gibberish typed on them. Lines of XXXXXs and MMMMMMMs and stamped in caps, "ENCORE INCIDENTALS TAX EXEMPT." 

What makes these ones tax exempt and what kind of incidentals (lattes and Forever 21 purchases)? Why vandalize the money? I did some Googling on combinations of the words tax exempt antique money but not much came up. I wish my mom had written me an explanation. 


The End Of Infinite Christmas

The year my mom got sick she still was able put up the Christmas tree all by herself. I don't know how she did it, being so skinny and weak. It was probably a superpower that Chinese widows develop.

We had one of those artificial trees with the lights built-in from Costco. The itself tree was giant, 8 or 9 feet, and my mom would single handedly assemble it every year. I was out of town for a few days in December and when I came back she surprised me. She had put up the tree and decorated it with all the ornaments that we had kept since my childhood. The mice sleeping in the matchbox, the straw scarecrow doll in a red flannel dress, the plastic Bambi, the clay ceramic music note from my piano teacher, the glitter covered red and green ball ornaments. I was happy to see that we had them all still.

That year we didn't have the energy to take the tree down. We were the sort of people who leave the tree decorated far into January anyway. I at least took the ornaments down, but we left the tree in the same nook next to the pink marble fireplace in the living room into spring, then summer, and then fall. It just become the giant fake tree we had in our the house, the way Chinese restaurants have fake orchids. When friends would come over they'd be shocked.

"Is that a Christmas tree?" one friend asked. I couldn't even see it anymore.

"Yeah, yeah, it's just a fake plant!" I'd reply. It lived there for three years.

Last weekend John came over to help me dismantle the tree. We had to tie straighten out the wire branches, which were as prickly as real pine. I had to put on work gloves. Then we tied each layer of branches with the string my grandfather had collected in Taiwan. I guess I'll never mock grandpa's string collection again.

Below, the hole where the tree used to be.

John asked me why there was a bucket behind the tree. I explained that because the base was broken and the tree was on the brink of falling over. My mother filled a bucket with water and placed it on the base to keep the whole operation upright.  

Notice the stray pine needles I'm gonna have to vacuum! Also, watch John's new awesome show on Cartoon Network.
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