She’s a rich girl

Money can't buy happiness, but life experience can make you rich.

Money can’t buy happiness, but life experience can make you rich.

In the darkness of Room 318, my husband’s gravely snore could be heard over the rattle of the air conditioner. Normally unable to sleep with any kind of racket, I was out like the proverbial light, my mouth agape from the utter exhaustion that comes with moving.

Middle-age didn’t help either.

Our son, draped over the makeshift bed we created for him out of hotel chair cushions and extra blankets, tinkered on his laptop, chatting with Facebook friends about the new school he will enter in the fall.

In an identical room one floor above, silently laid my mother — who had come to help us move in to our assigned base house — nestled tightly between our two daughters.

“Grammy?” our youngest whispered in the darkness.

“Hu, wha?” my mother came to, her tired eyes at half-mast.

“I don’t wanna move here.”

“Oh, Sweetie,” my mother tried to regain lucidity, “I know you’re going to miss your sunny house in Florida, but you’ll love all the seasons in Rhode Island. Now, try to get some slee . . .”

“Well, I’m OK with that. It’s just that . . .”

“I totally understand, Lilly — snow gets me down sometimes too, especially during February and March. And when it snows on Easter – I have half a mind to catch the next Greyhound bus to the Bahamas. And another thing . . . “

“No, Grammy, I . . .”

“But think of all the sled riding you’re going to do!” my mother offered, attempting to recover from her self-absorbed rant.

“I’m not talking about that, I . . .”

“Oh, I get it now, you’re worried about your new school being too hard.”

“Well, no, I’m kind of afraid of . . .”

“The dress code?”

“Not . . .”


“No . . .”


“GRAMMY! Listen to me!” Lilly blurted in a hybrid whisper-scream so as to not wake her older sister.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie, what are you afraid of? Grammy’s all ears.”

In the silence, Lilly tried to pinpoint her feelings about going to private school for the first time, living in a New England resort community, and going from flip-flops and hush puppies to Topsiders and lobster.

“I’m scared, because all the people here are rich,” she finally admitted, “and we’re not.”

Surprised by Lilly’s admission and exaggerated perception of reality, my mother scanned the recesses of her half-conscious mind for an appropriate response.

“Don’t be so materialistic, Lilly,” her older sister, Anna, suddenly blurted from the opposite side of the bed.

Grammy chuckled at the irony that Anna, who had been obsessed with making money for shopping since she went door to door selling her old baby dolls in the first grade, would admonish her sister for concerning herself with money.

“It’s not funny, Grammy,” Lilly pouted, feeling embarrassed and ganged-up on.

“Oh, Lilly,” Grammy pulled her closer, stroked the soft butterscotch hair away from her face, and allowed the words to flow without aforethought.

“You’re right. Your Dad doesn’t make tons of money — he chose to serve his country even if it meant taking a lower salary than he could make outside of the military. And your mom put aside her career as an attorney to follow him and raise you kids. No, your family doesn’t have a lot of money like some of the folks in this town.”

“But you know what?” she waited for replies from the pillows flanking her own head.

“What?” the sisters said in hushed unison.

“’Rich’ people might have big bank accounts and vacation homes in the Caymans, but those possessions aren’t really worth much in the whole grand scheme of things. What matters more is the value of your life experiences. Living all over the world, courage, patriotism, sacrifice, honor, camaraderie, respect, service – that’s the stuff that money can’t buy.”

Before Mr. Sandman lulled them all back to Lala Land, Grammy kissed her granddaughters on the head and eked out one final edict: “Lilly, you’re a military kid – hold your head up high, because you’re the richest girl in town.”


Happy to have Dad back after a year in Djibouti, Africa

Family fun in Spain

Family fun in Spain

Kodak 250

Reaching new peaks in Switzerland

Winter to Spring 2010 364

Boxed up in London


Bullied by brother in Bavaria


Snoozing in the heather in the Irish hills


Risky business in Rome


Proud of Dad on his promotion.Winter to Spring 2010 865Wet and Wild in the Alps

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Comments: 22

  1. Jane September 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm Reply

    Okay Lisa, I have a tear in my eye as I sit here in Africa with the rain pouring down wondering what part of the house is going to leak and how long I will have internet for. Alexandra took a soccer ball over to some kids the other day because they were playing with a plastic bottle instead of a ball. It was their greatest treasure and one of Alexandra’s greatest treasures in giving it. Military kids are truly rich in all their experiences and friendships. What a great blog, thank you for reminding us how truly fortunate we are!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm Reply

      Wow Jane, that’s so cool that your daughter got to experience the kind of giving that is real and not for show. That will stick with her forever. And you can thank the military for making those kind of life experiences possible. The longer we are in the Navy, the more corny and patriotic I get! I guess after two decades of living this life, I realize what an honor and privilege it is to be a military family. Enjoy Africa and maybe we will meet again once you are stateside!

  2. Anonymous September 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm Reply

    As a military kid, I can attest to the truth of your words. I appreciate that part of my life that my parents gave me. I’m sure your kids will feel the same.

  3. lauriebest September 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm Reply

    You can be sure your kids will cherish these memories as they get older…and will appreciate your strength in making all the moves.

  4. Grace September 5, 2013 at 11:44 pm Reply

    Just having a Grammy makes you rich!

  5. energywriter September 5, 2013 at 10:42 pm Reply

    Beautiful story. Left a comment. sd

  6. Sharon September 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm Reply

    Beautiful story, Lisa. Your children are definitely “rich.” Loved the photos.

  7. Michelle Mik. September 5, 2013 at 10:18 pm Reply

    These are the days dreams are made of my friend!

  8. Anonymous September 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm Reply

    Oh, Lisa, this one brought tears to my eyes. Your kids have grown so much in the past few years; you guys are doing such a great job at this parenting gig. Our family is all the more rich from living near you guys for a short time.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 6, 2013 at 8:04 am Reply

      Hey Anonymous — I’m wondering who this is, but whoever you are, how come you never call me? Just kidding!

  9. Heidi Eckl September 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm Reply

    I just love your stories! You and your family are extremely wealthy in my mind. To have been all over the world as you have (even if it’s just through the military) is something not many get to experience. It’s something I hope to do one day. Thanks for sharing, and keep up the good work!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm Reply

      Military life hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  10. Melanie R. September 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm Reply

    Money can’t buy happiness. Glad you are putting things in perspective and your children already know that skill! You are certainly rich in travel-the-world-memories!!

  11. camdenstables September 5, 2013 at 1:59 pm Reply

    I have never been to Switzerland, Africa,Bavaria, the Alps, London,Rome or Ireland – what a richness that is! (Spain was 4 days and one spent running 42 km around Madrid). Your children look happy and companionable – that is a blessing beyond price.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm Reply

      Thanks….but I must admit, my kids aren’t always companionable!

  12. BulgingButtons September 5, 2013 at 1:32 pm Reply

    This little story was so masterfully told. My heart swelled reading it. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. thewritertracy September 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm Reply

    A rich life is worth so much more than having a rich bank account. Great lesson for you to pass on to your kids!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm Reply

      Thank goodness, because our bank account is pretty skimpy these days!

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