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Fame & Fortune: Actress Meg Tilly
Tragic childhood teaches her: Live within your means

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Bankrate: You survived a financially and emotionally difficult childhood. When you look back on it, are there any good memories?

Tilly: You know, some of the real happy memories have to do with my brothers and sisters. There were enormous challenges, that's just a given, but when bad things would happen, we would laugh about how clever we were to get away. When my stepdad would come bursting out, we all would just scatter, and it always made me feel really clever that I was able to get away because I was a really good hider. It might sound horrible, that we were hiding from a beating, but to me it's like I'm really tricky because I found this really cool place behind the fridge where there's six or seven inches and if I turn my head and feet sideways I could fit in there and he'd never find me if I got there first! Or under the kitchen sink where you could twist your body around the curve of the pipes. He never thought to open that door. So you're sitting there scared, terrified, but feeling so smart because you're smarter than him. Or if you run fast and he's naked in his bare feet and you climb a tree, he can't climb trees. It's hard for people not in the situation to see, but in a way it made me a very good problem solver. I can be in a situation and see all the different ways playing out and make decisions very quickly. Life was full of challenges, but having to work so hard as a child gave me strength.

Bankrate: Were you aware of living in abject poverty?

Tilly: One of the things that makes me most happy is that I can go to the grocery store and put anything I want into my cart. That's such a huge blessing. People often think that most people can put anything they want in their carts, and well, no, actually most people can't. There are a lot of people who can't.

One of our favorite conversations at night was: What do you like better, Christmas or Halloween? And we'd have these a big debate about which was better. They used to have these contests where, if your name was drawn, you got to have three or five minutes in a grocery store where you could fly around, and we'd daydream about that. One sister would say, "I'd go get ice cream," and another sister would say, "No, I'm going to the candy counter and I'd throw it all in," and I'd be like, "No, stupid, I'm going to the meat cabinet, I'd get all the meat, the expensive stuff, not the cheap stuff, the roast beefs and the pork chops, and then I'd freeze them and I'd sell them and then I could buy all the candy in the world!"

Next: "I saved because it gave me a sense of having choices. ..."
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