LOIS GREENE STONE - LIKE A PENNY
Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
like a penny
I'm grown up. I really am 'mature', educated, worldly, but hardly sophisticated, which has little to do with getting older anyway. Well, so you can chuckle at how I can still blurt-out thoughts, I've got to give you a glimpse into a specific childhood event. Here goes:
I stood in the dinette facing my older sister. While she played with the ridges around her ten-cent coin, I insisted she couldn't have TWO of my nickels for just ONE of her dimes; two is more than one no matter what she said.
My father attempted to explain that a dime was equal to two nickels; I didn't believe him. My smooth-edged circles were larger and had more designs on them. No one could fool me; I was six and smart.
Screaming and calling me stupid, my nine year old sister assured me there was no trick to the transaction. I stubbornly stated that if they were the same, then I'd keep my two and she could keep her one.
I knew I could outshout, outstare, outanything anyone. Stubborn was good. Grandpa tried to give me a funny coin once...to save. It said "Union Forever" and he called it a Civil War token. I told him to give it to my sister 'cause it wasn't real money. See. I was smart.
Oh. And I remember Grandma trying to test me when she dropped a huge, heavy thing on my dresser. She called it a silver dollar. Who was she fooling? Dollars are made out of paper!
I learned about money in school. First 'money' was oxen and cows since everyone needed something to pull a plow, give milk, haul a cart, be skinned for shoes and clothes. Then the teacher said that animals were too big to carry around so money had to be easy to carry and not spoil. So, small metal chips got stamped with something to show where they were made; yeah, art stuff. Good so far? Well, a zillion years ago in 1652, in Boston, Massachusetts, pictures of trees were put on our money and a man named John Hull gave his daughter her weight in coins as a wedding gift. Really! She got ten thousand Pine Tree shillings, but I couldn't remember, at the time, what a shilling meant so I didn't know if she had been fat or skinny.
A metal bank from the World's Fair, shaped like a trylon and perisphere, had a coin slot that fit only pennies. Pennies were nice. I liked the color. When this bank filled, and I'd stabbed my hand on the trylon's sharp point hundreds of times, I sorted my cents and tried to have one Lincoln dated year by year. I hoped no one dropped those old Indian pennies in my bank; I only wanted Lincoln. He was a President of the United States. I learned that in school, also. Oh, I only kept the shiny Lincoln's if more than one had the same date.
Bet you didn't think when I was a little kid that I knew names of presidents or how to read coin numbers like 1914, 1915, 1916 and more. Mommy had told me about mint marks but I couldn't imagine how mint leaves we put in tea could mark my pennies.
Lincoln pennies spelled out 'one cent' on the back. That sure was sensible. My Jefferson nickel had his house on the 'tails' side when I flipped a coin. How could anyone from another country know that coin was a nickel when it didn't say so in big print! I was never going to save those. And Lincoln was in pictures all over school, well, wherever Washington wasn't.
Grown up. With poise and intelligent awareness acquired with aging, I attended an exhibit of original photographic masterpieces. In The International Museum of Photography, I stared at real, not prints; some were even signed. Seeing the original "The Migrant Mother" was stirring. Famous names like Daugerre, Man Ray, Bruehl, made me search my learnings for each technique that separated them as artists. In open spots, free from assembled viewers, I moved not following sequenced dates of the display. A picture of once movie-actress Marlene Dietrich bothered me; I didn't like her eyebrows or position of her hand. I decided that the artist, however, intended to do something to cause a viewer to both remember her and his craft. I walked quietly taking in these treasures with adult fascination.
When I got to a photograph of Lincoln, I forgot I was in a place of silence, as museums always are, so, quite loud and with a girlish giggle, I exclaimed "He looks just like the penny."
May 1995 Rochester Shorts
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