. . . And Where She Stops Nobody Knows

Power Ball Machine. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.
Power Ball Machine. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.

The buzz was on even before the January, 2016, power ball had reached $1.5 billion.

“If you win, how would you spend your money?” I queried.

At the senior workout class at my local gym, I had a variety of answers. My favorite came from Mac, an octogenarian from Scotland. His answer came without hesitation: “Why, I’d open my own bank, The Bank of MacGregor. That way I could hang on to the money.”

Others were less avaricious. One woman said she would give a large chunk to her daughter and daughter-in-law, so that they could quit their jobs and take care of their children at home.

Cindy said she would pay off all debts and ensure her future income, donate to favorite charities, and with what was left over, “I’d empty my swimming pool and fill it with gumballs that I could dive into like it was Chuck E. Cheese for adults with a sweet tooth.”

Almost everyone here in the Borderland talked first of helping their parents and grandparents pay off their debts and fix up their homes.

Janice told me that she and her husband had a long-standing plan for handling unexpected wealth. They would divide it into three parts. She and her husband would each get one third to either invest or spend as they desired. The final third would go for maintenance and house improvements. Despite this sensible plan, they have never had the opportunity to test it out.

Karina promised, “I would do something kind for someone every day. For example, when I go to the utility companies to pay my monthly bills, I would restore anyone’s electricity and heat that had been shut off that day.”

My hair dresser, Adira, told me that a client had vowed to buy her a house right behind her own house, so that Adira could do her hair every day.

As for me, I would assist my immediate family and give them money, stretched out over time because I wouldn’t want them quitting their jobs, unless they were miserable at work. I would also help friends in financial need. I already promised a friend I would pay off her mortgage.

Here in Las Cruces, I am affiliated with two fabulous foundations: Casa Camino Real and the Institute of Historical Survey. I would bestow $1 million dollars upon each of them. After that I would endow a $1 million dollar Folklore Chair at UCLA to ensure that folklore would always be taught there. Finally, I would give money to other charities, some for animals, others for health, then to music.

I discussed this distribution of wealth with PJ, a friend and former editor. Shortly after, she sent me an article that advised the best way to handle the money – one lump sum or an annuity? The article recommended an annuity, even for people my age. That way it would be handled by my estate and distributed to my heirs for many years to come.

You know the best part about this discussion? I didn’t even buy a ticket, yet I had a grand time one recent restless night deciding on the disbursement of funds.

It’s fun to fantasize about such things and it feels good to see myself as Lady Bountiful.  No doubt, dreaming about such possibilities is fun and creative for everyone. Nonetheless, those whom I asked and others I read about first mentioned performing kindnesses for those in need. This made me wonder about their sincerity. Including myself. Do we say we’d share our riches with others to make us seem less greedy?

Is that what we would actually do if we won? Personally, I will never find out unless, one day, I get around to buying a ticket.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who never buys lottery tickets yet enjoys pretending what she’d do if she won. And where would your money go?