And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Since the onset of COVID, which meant a sharp decrease in seeing my granddaughter, Maya Mae, I’ve been meeting her almost every night on Zoom. I read a chapter from a book, and lately, she’s been reading a book to me as well. We often chat about her day, about what she’s up to, where her interests are going. I’ve watched her ride around the house on her hoverboard, make great creations with her Light Bright and a variety of different tiles and bricks, and I’ve said hello to all manner of stuffed animals. While it’s nowhere near the same as seeing her, it’s been wonderful.
Recently, she shared her new collection of coins. They were just your everyday coins, but to Maya, they were magical, with their dates and ridged or smooth edges, the variety of heads on the front, the silver, the bronze. And of course, they rattled when she shook them. It sparked a memory for me, and so I went digging.
In the back of a dresser drawer, there was a sandwich baggie of coins that I’ve had since childhood. There was a 1925 silver dollar, that I’m told I was given by my maternal grandmother on the day of my birth. 1925 was the year my mother was born. The silver dollar was indeed all silver. It was kept in a special plastic pouch to keep it from tarnishing. The silver gave it a solid weight and, as a child, when I held it in my small palm, I was amazed at how much space it took up. I was also amazed that something that was a “dollar” could be worth more than a dollar.
Tucked in the plastic pouch was a 1964 quarter, which I’m assuming was given to me on my fourth birthday. 1964 was the last year that quarters were made with silver.
Rattling with these in the sandwich baggie was a Bicentennial half-dollar, and I remember well tucking this coin away. My father was recovering from his first heart surgery that July 4th, and I remember sitting with him and watching the regatta of tall ships on television. I also had several coins that my father brought back from WWII, coins from different countries. One of my favorites was a penny that, unlike our penny, was a large coin, as large as the 1925 silver dollar. It amazed me that our penny was so small, and this penny was so huge.
So I pulled these coins out of the hidden recesses of my dresser drawer, where they languished. They hadn’t been part of a small girl’s admiration for many years. It was time to change that.
When I was on retreat last week, I visited a Goodwill in La Crosse, one I’d been to before, and absolutely the best Goodwill I’ve ever been to. I scoured the shelves of odds and ends until I found the perfect container for the coins. It was a pink pleather jewelry box, small, with a snap closure keeping everything inside safe. It was lined with pastel pink crushed velvet and the insert that was meant to hold rings easily lifted away, giving a nice space for the coins to rest. I pictured Maya holding it by the strap and shaking it gently, listening to that glorious rattle. The little box made the trip home with me.
Sunday was Easter, and because I now had my second vaccine, I had Maya come over, even though I wasn’t yet past the 2-week waiting period. It was worth the risk to give her her Easter presents in person. After she exclaimed over the fuzzy stuffed cow, the book of 5-minute Pepa Pig stories, a make-your-own unicorn terrarium (Grandpa picked that one out!), a chocolate bunny, a chocolate bunny lollipop, a bag of jelly beans (which Maya told me she doesn’t like, but since they were Starburst jelly beans, she would give them a chance) and a bag of peppermint patties, I called her over to me and showed her the little pink jewelry box.
“I know you’ve gotten interested in coins,” I said. “This is a special present, which you have to keep very safe. Look inside.”
She unsnapped it and I lifted out the coins, one by one, and showed them to her.
“Remember my telling you that my grandmother gave me a 1925 silver dollar when I was born?” I asked.
“This is it.” We took it out of the pouch and I laid it on her palm.
“Oooh,” she said. “It’s heavy!”
Our heads bent over her hand, we marveled at how much space it took up on her palm.
“It’s from 1925,” I said. “Do you know what year it is now?”
She thought for a moment, and then said, “2021.”
“Right!” I said. “That means that in four years, this coin will be 100 years old.”
Her eyes got as big and round as the silver dollar. “Really?” she whispered. “Wow!”
I showed her all the others, and then explained again that these were special coins and she had to take special care to make sure they remained safe. “Especially that silver dollar,” I said. “My grandmother gave it to me. And now I’m giving it to you.”
The hug was the best part. I felt a bit misty as Maya walked out the door, carrying the coins I’d held onto for so long, and carrying the coin that was a part of me for my entire life. Now it was a part of hers.
The next day, on Zoom, Maya took me into her bedroom and showed me the pink box. She took out all the coins and displayed them to me again. She held the silver dollar on her palm. Screen to screen, we bent our heads over it. After she carefully put it back into the pouch, she held up the foreign penny. “Look at how big this penny is!” she said. “So much bigger than ours! Isn’t it huge?”
In her voice, I heard my voice echo. I see my wonder in hers. I see me in her, young all over again, life just starting out.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.