There is a penny lying on the mat in front of the door leading from the garage into our house. It’s been there a long time. I see it every time I go inside, but my hands are usually full, and stooping down to pick it up just hasn’t been a priority for me.
That’s not always been the case. Coins have been meaningful to me, for one reason or another, at various times in my life. Here are a few random coin memories:
Grandma (Rose) used to tape a dime, for me, onto letters she sent to my mom and dad. Although I was only two or three years old when Grandma did this, I’ve never forgotten it. Of course, that was in the day of hand-written letters. It’s not so easy to tape a dime to an email message. Oh, for the days of opening the mailbox and finding letters and cards from friends and family, instead of a pile of junk mail and bills!
Speaking of Grandma, she was also the one, when I was four years old, who told me she would give me a silver dollar if I ever blew a bubblegum-bubble as big as my head. I worked on that for what seemed like months (probably wasn’t that long, in reality). I finally did blow a pretty big bubble and, although it certainly wasn’t as big as my head, Grandma, being Grandma, awarded me the silver dollar.
COINS FOR ICE CREAM
I can’t remember the details or the reason, but for a brief time one summer, when I was about five years old, we lived with my Great Aunt Agnes in Hillsboro, Oregon (what a jewel she was!). My older second-cousin, Don, lived close by and spent a lot of time with me that summer. Every afternoon the ice-cream man would come by on his little motorized cart. He charged ten cents for any of his confections – Nutty Buddies, Creamsicles, Eskimo Pies and Fudgesicles. We could hear his tinkly music from several blocks away, which always gave us time to run inside and ask Aunt Agnes for ice cream money. She had one of those little coin pouches, with the little metal clasp that you twisted apart. She would dig in there and count out ten cents for Don and ten cents for me. Sometimes we were given a dime, sometimes two nickels, sometimes a nickel and five pennies. But she always found a way to put ten cents in each of our little fists. Though I’ve eaten a hundred or more ice cream bars since that summer – some of them “premium” brands – none ever tasted as good as those bought with Aunt Agnes’ coins.
When we lived in the apartment over our first bakery on South Franklin Street, Friday nights were a special time for my mom and me. Thinking about it now, I suppose Mom prepared a bank deposit every night, from the money in the bakery till. But on Friday I got to stay up late and help her with it. I remember, as if I had just seen them yesterday, the TV tables that sat, folded up, in their holder in our living room. On Friday nights I’d pull out and set-up two of them, one for me and one for Mom. She would put the paper money on her tray, and pour out the coins onto mine. It was my job to stack the coins into precisely-counted-out piles and roll them up in the paper rollers that we got from the bank. Fifty pennies (50 cents) went into the red rollers; forty nickels ($2) in the blue rollers; fifty dimes ($5.00) in the green rollers; forty quarters ($10.00) in the orange rollers; and twenty half-dollars ($10.00) in brown rollers. (Half dollars were still common, back then, and they had Benjamin Franklin’s head on them, not JFK’s. Silver dollars also showed up in our till, frequently, but they did not go to the bank. They went into Mom’s personal stash. Over the years, she bought special things with those silver dollars, including some nice pieces of furniture.) When we had finished preparing the bank deposit, Mom would send me across the street to buy two bottles of Coca Cola, while she dipped up some vanilla ice cream, from downstairs in the bakery, into two tall glasses. Mmmm - Friday night Coke floats!
At some point in junior high, I started collecting pennies. I bought one of those penny folders and, on occasion, would sort through the bakery till, at the end of the day, looking for pennies I needed. I still have that blue penny folder, and it’s pretty much complete, I think. I even have some of those (1943?) war-time zinc-coated-steel pennies, which we never see in circulation anymore.
Do you remember my blog about the dentist who used to give me mercury to play with? One of my favorite things to do (KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME) was to rub a bead of mercury onto a coin. It would adhere to and dissolve onto the metal and turn it the most brilliant silver color.
A PENNY SNACK
I remember when 4-year-old Chris came in the house, one day, after playing with the neighbor boy, his eyes as big as saucers and a mixture of guilt and fear all over his dirty little face (they had been playing with Tonka trucks out in the empty lot between our houses). “Mama, I swallowed a penny!” he confessed. “What?!! Why?!! How?!!” I cried, dashing over to him. “Tim [the neighbor boy, not our Tim] dared me to swallow it, and I did,” he cried. I called the doctor – “Not to worry. As long as he’s breathing fine, this too shall pass! It happens all the time.” [Let’s just hope they don't swallow any of those coins I coated in mercury back in the day!]
Enough of the coin stories. I got a little carried away, I realize. I think I’m going to go pick up that penny on the mat in the garage. And I need to write a note to Clara, and one to Robert, and tape a couple dimes to them. (Robert, don’t SWALLOW the dime!)