In 1980s Bulgaria, where I grew up, three generations would traditionally share a roof, as did we. I was my grandfather Ilya’s namesake and his favorite grandchild. I was not yet of school age when Grandpa started sending me to the corner store to buy him cigarettes, and generously let me keep the change. “Get yourself a sweet!”- he would say with a smile. Most often Grandpa would give me a 20 cent coin if he asked for the filterless, cheaper brand smokes costing 15 cents. 5 cents change was enough for a butter cookie or a wafer. But on a very good day, when he felt like indulging on 35c filtered slim cigarettes, he would hand me a 50 cent coin, which left me with 15 cents change. That was two chocolate dipped wafers, or a slice of cake! I was in sweet heaven while my Grandpa was poisoning his lungs.
I don’t know how long it took me to realize it but one day the light went on. If I was sent for the fancy cigarettes, but they were sold out (or I just say so!) I could buy the cheap ones instead and end up with lots of change. Lots in the eye of a child of single digits age. Even when Grandpa would give me the exact amount of coins for the more expensive cigarettes, if I bought the filterless fags, I’d have the upper hand.
Grandpa loved me so much. He loved smoking too. I doubt he ever got the drift of my little shenanigans. But with a bit of math I learned money’s top attribute - money is sweet!