Scratch the pumpkin pie, Liz’s brother told her. Cherry pie was what he wanted for Thanksgiving.
Without that special request from far-off Alaska, said Liz, her family’s second great miracle — the first being their son’s birth — would not have happened.
Because, on his way out of the Auburn Safeway store that day, cherry pie and whipped cream in hand, husband Michael bought the last three “Millionaire’s Club” scratch tickets from a Washington’s Lottery vending machine.
Michael and Liz have played the lottery with the same set of numbers every week since 1988, and he stuck to them.
“It’s our form of entertainment,” said Michael.
But that day would be like no other for him, a construction worker, or her, a researcher.
Because one of those three tickets turned out to be a $1 million winner.
But they wouldn’t know that until after three days after the busyness of Thanksgiving had settled.
Michael was upstairs in their home in rural Auburn when he got to the big scratch. And when he’d sufficiently convinced himself that his eyeballs weren’t playing cruel tricks on him, he set off, trembling in every limb, to show his wife.
Their habit has always been to refrain from scratching off the part of the ticket that shows the prize amount until they’re sure they have a winning match.
“When we saw the symbols match, we scratched the part that shows the prize, and we saw a ‘1’ with an ‘M’ next to it,” said Liz. “We thought we knew what that meant, and we looked at each other in shock and decided to call the Lottery office in Olympia. When the woman at the Lottery asked me how much I’d won, I actually said, ‘I can’t tell you that. I’m too nervous.’”
Once they realized that they had, in fact, hit the jackpot, mom and dad packed their boy in the the car for a drive to the Lottery’s headquarters in Olympia.
It took a week or so for it all to fully sink in.
“People always ask lottery winners how they felt when they first learned they’d won, and my response is the same as theirs: I’ll tell you when I know how I feel. Now I know what they mean,” said Michael.
“At first, it doesn’t feel real, just complete shock,” said Liz.
To avoid the pitfalls typical of sudden, unexpected wealth and a conga line of relatives and friends they didn’t know they had camping on their doorstep with hands out, Mike and Liz have decided to keep their good fortune secret for now.
That is why they asked to have their last names withheld from this story.
Indeed, no one except for them and one or two lottery officials know about it.
Not the brother whose request led to their sudden fortune. Certainly not the store clerk who asked him just the other day what clerks everywhere ask customers: “How are you doing today?”
Michael couldn’t help himself.
“I feel like a million bucks,” he replied to the unsuspecting clerk who nodded at the remark and went to totalling up the sum.
So, the first purchase? Swimming pool? Fancy car? Castle in Capri?
Perhaps something more modest for this frugal family, which rarely even dines out.
“I’m buying steak, and I’m not even looking at the price,” Liz told her amused husband.
Their son is getting a new bike for Christmas, and each member of their large, extended family will get an extra-nice gift for the holiday, too — especially Liz’s brother.
But nothing outlandish or extravagant. It could create suspicions, especially in this year of COVID-19 austerity.
Mike and Liz said that henceforth, there’ll be a new holiday tradition.
“We’re getting a cherry pie every year, and we’re buying a couple of lottery tickets,” Liz said with a laugh.