Today is National Storytelling Day. I love a good story, which can be told in so many ways. Traditionally, books, poems, films and plays were the favored storytelling format. However, stories can be told, beautifully, through songs and music, art of all kinds, a vignette, a starry night, or a soulful look from across a room.
My favorite stories are those that are true, events based on real people experiencing real life. I also appreciate a great story that although fiction, has deep truths evident in the telling of it. For me this includes epics such as The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. While both stories fall in the fantasy realm, they contain elements of truth so profound that they resonate strongly with the reader or movie watcher.
To celebrate National Storytelling Day, I’m sharing two short stories that are linked together by a common theme…coins. They are my stories, and they are absolutely true, however both are imbued with mystery and magic.
Are you comfortable? Good. I’ll begin…
Years ago, when my children were school aged, I worked one afternoon a week at a church, in a homeschooling group. On this afternoon, I was walking down a hallway to the kitchen, with the intention of buying a diet soda from the vending machine. Halfway to the kitchen, I spied a coin lying on the carpet. Picking it up to inspect it, I found the coin to be a quarter, painted on one side with enamel paint or nail polish. Marked thus the quarter was distinct, and memorable. However, I decided to plug it into the soda machine, replacing one of my own quarters. I kept the painted quarter in my hand, closing my fingers around it.
However, in the kitchen, when I opened my hand to spend the quarter, it was gone. I had taken approximately 12 steps from the time I found the quarter until I stood before the Pepsi machine, but the coin was no longer in my hand. I shrugged. I must have dropped it. After purchasing a soda, with my own two quarters, I returned to my office slowly, scanning the hallway for the missing coin. I didn’t find it, and promptly forgot about it.
One week later, I was back at the same church, sitting at the desk in my office. I was wearing different clothes than I had the previous week…a dress, with the obligatory pantyhose, and low heels. As I worked I became aware of an itching sensation on the back of my left calf. I reached down, distractedly, to scratch my lower leg, and was surprised to feel a bump on my leg. It wasn’t an insect bite. The bump was circular and felt cold…metallic.
Very aware now, I raised the hem of my dress and twisting my leg, peered at the back of my calf. There was something stuck to my leg, beneath the fabric of the pantyhose. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In the ladies restroom I removed the hose to better see what was stuck to my leg. It was a quarter, firmly adhered to the skin of my calf. My skin prickled in goosebumps. Peeling the quarter off my leg, I turned it over. The back was painted in a distinctive way.
It was the quarter I had found last week, that disappeared out of my hand. I have never been able to explain how it reappeared a week later, stuck onto the back of my leg.
I’ve often marveled at that story. It is beyond bizarre. It is magical. Recently, I had another mysterious experience with a coin.
Cleaning in the house of Greg’s dad, after he passed away, I found an old wheat-back penny under a bed. Turning the coin over I saw that it was stamped with the year 1958, my birth year. How cool, I thought. I placed the penny in my billfold, within a clear plastic sleeve, a keepsake to treasure. Because it had my birth year on it, the penny seemed like a personal gift from Greg’s dad.
I’ve carried the penny in my billfold since that day. I see it everytime I open my wallet. A couple of months ago, I was transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer. I always do a final check in the washer after emptying it, to make sure I don’t miss a sock. No socks remained behind, but I saw something small and dark in the bottom of the washer.
Retrieving the item, I saw it was a coin…a wheat-back penny. I was amazed. How strange to find another old penny. I moved into the kitchen, near the window, so I could see it better. And I knew. Before I even turned it over, I knew what year was going to be stamped on the face of the penny.
I stared at the penny, my scalp tingling. No way. No way was this MY penny from my billfold. How could it be?
I retrieved my wallet and slowly opened it. Again, I knew. Before I looked in the plastic sleeve, I knew. But I checked anyway. The penny wasn’t there…it was gone. Or rather, I was now holding it in my hand, fresh from the washer. I returned the coin to the sleeve in my billfold.
I can’t explain either of those experiences with coins that appeared…disappeared…and reappeared. And that’s the whole point of these stories…I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to figure out why magical experiences and items show up in my life. I just have to accept that they do…and believe..that life is big and mysterious and full of unexplainable enchantment. Such a belief expands my heart, mind and soul. And lest I forget, and let my world grow too small, there are disappearing coins to remind me.
I do believe.