Sometime last fall I started finding pennies. I know we all occasionally find pennies but I started finding them often. The first one that began my penny finding stint was in a parking lot outside the bank. When I got back to my car, I looked down and there it was. I picked it up and put it on my dashboard, thinking, “See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.” Hey, I need good luck! I mean, really, who doesn’t?! After finding that one, it seemed like they were everywhere. I started feeling lucky! Indeed, it seemed that lucky things were happening to me!
So, I told Jeff. And, Jeff’s parents. And his kids, and my kids. I said, “It’s the strangest thing… I’m finding pennies everywhere. I mean, I know we all find pennies but this has never happened to me before quite like this!” I was feeling so lucky.
When we went skiing, there was one on the stairway I went down, when we went to a restaurant, there was one on the floor next to my chair, when we got on a subway, there was one on the seat, and on and on and on. I’ll admit, my luck felt so good that I started looking for them. And, maybe, I thought, these pennies have been here all along but now I am just noticing them! Then I wondered if that might wear off their luck so I started to pretend I wasn’t looking for them because, man, I was feeling lucky, lucky.
I began collecting them on the top of my bathroom vanity cabinet in a neat, little row. I figured that because this was the place where I got ready, the luck from them would kind of sprinkle down on me each day before I faced the world. And, of course, I didn’t want to let them mix into the change bin with all the other unlucky pennies so I needed a really special place to put them! Every time I found one, onto the vanity it went. Fall turned to winter, winter turned to spring and, pretty soon, I had nearly twenty lucky pennies. I was a lucky girl, that’s for sure. I believed it was true.
Now, speaking of believing for a moment, I want to talk about my childhood a little bit here. And, since I know my parents read my blog (they are, perhaps, my most dedicated readers) I just want to say that I don’t want them to feel bad about what I’m about to tell you because, the truth is, I think I’ve worked through all the psychological trauma they caused me with this one: They told me and my sister, from the very beginning, there was no Santa Claus. Yup. You heard it. No Santa. Christmas presents came from the mall, got wrapped by mom the night before and were plopped under the tree in the morning. No Santa, no behavior throughout the year that might influence him, no reindeer, no cookies and no milk. You might think this took some of the magic out of Christmas for us but you have to understand they were liberal 70s parents and trying to do their best to raise independent thinkers, not magical thinkers. And especially not magical female thinkers who believed in some benevolent man who showered us with gifts. Jeez, what kind of woman would want that?!
So, back to Santa. Or no Santa, as the case was. At some point in my life, I have to say that I began to feel cheated. I thought, when I grow up and have my own kids, I was going to DO SANTA. I was gonna do Santa like no mom had ever done Santa. And I did.
I found the best Santa impersonator in the world at the Bridgewater Mall and we stood in line to sit on his lap. We wrote the letters, addressed them to the North Pole and took them to the post office with the special Santa mailbox. We made the fanciest cookies and put them out on the plate with the glass of milk with handmade Christmas cards (Santa absolutely can eat cookies at everyone’s house, don’t ask how, he’s probably just really hungry). We even left small gifts for Santa next to the fireplace below our narrow chimney where he came in (don’t ask how he fits, he just does). We filled little bags with oats for the reindeer with little tags to tell Santa what the little bags of oats were for (even though Santa knows everything, but who wouldn’t want to make little tags for Santa?). And then we hurried off to sleep because Santa never comes to houses where everyone isn’t sleeping (and you can’t pretend that you are sleeping because he will know that, don’t ask how, he just does). After I was sure they were asleep, I wrapped all the gifts, threw away the oats, crumbled the cookie crumbs onto the plate, poured the milk out, and put their little Christmas cards in the keepsake place. Then, I went off to bed, myself, to try to get a few hours of shuteye before the crack of dawn when both of them awoke with such amazement, such joy, such blissful wonder at what had taken place in our house while we all slept. I had my kids so into believing in Santa that, when they misbehaved throughout the year, all I had to do was pick up the phone and say, “That’s it. I’m calling the North Pole right now and telling Santa how you are acting and I can tell you, he’s not gonna like it. Not one bit.” It worked every time. I never even had to dial the number.
I was so determined about keeping their belief in Santa that I committed to never ever admitting he wasn’t real. Even when I knew they knew. It was just unspoken. Now that they are both really young men, I’ve asked them how they felt about my Santa intensity. My oldest, who is deep in the throes of college preparation, responded quickly with, “It was great! It was like this amazing time in your life, the only time in your life, when you believe all this crazy good shit is really real!” His brother agreed, Santa belief was pure magic. Sigh. A mother-job well done.
About a month ago, I’d returned from the supermarket and was putting the groceries away. In the refrigerator, in the front corner of the fruit drawer was… you know what… a penny. A few days later, I got into the shower and there, on the floor at my feet… a penny. I told Jeff again about all the pennies I had been finding and, one night after a few glasses of wine, I lovingly cradled all my lucky pennies in my hands and practically sang to him, “Can you believe this? I am so, so, so lucky!” He just smiled but I was feeling the mega luck, that’s for sure.
But, then there was a penny perched on the top of my computer monitor. And one on the rim of the toilet seat… and, finally, unbelievably, one with its shiny, copper edge peeking out of my bar of soap! I felt my belief becoming shaky. It was once of the oddest feelings, feeling it change like that. I went to Jeff and said, “This is just too weird. This can’t be random. Someone has to be doing this.” He cocked his head with a guilty smile and said, “I knew, we all knew, but I just couldn’t tell you.”
You see, I have the best kids in the world. They know I’m a grown-up, know I’m deeply flawed, know I have all kinds of things I think are right but that they disagree with, know I’m optimistic to a ridiculous degree and believe in stuff like meditation and the power of happiness, but, you know what? They get me. I’ve long told them that I’ve been “studying” them their whole lives but I daresay they have also been studying me. We don’t always get along but we are people who share all sorts of things, we have the same sense of humor, and we tease each other and poke fun at our faults. I have long, philosophical talks with my oldest son, Ethan, when we run together and I am always the first person he calls or texts for coaching when things aren’t going right for him. And my youngest son, Caleb, still wakes up almost every morning and gives me a hug, still begins the day by asking me “How’re you doing, Mom?” This year I learned to ski and when, on our very last ski trip, I reluctantly decided to brave the black diamond trail, Belleayre Run, he stayed on the mountain with me, always about ten feet from where I was, cheering me on, telling me I could do it, for the entire 20 minutes it took me to get down.
Jeff said he didn’t want to tell me because he didn’t want to ruin it, didn’t want to spoil the magic, but he asked me if I feel cheated now that I know. Like Ethan, when I asked him about Santa, it didn’t take me more than a second to respond. I said, “Are you kidding? No way! I’ve got kids who want me to be lucky! I’m the luckiest mom in the whole, wide world.” I am so, so, so completely lucky.
But, I do wonder how in the heck they got that penny into the bar of soap. Maybe Santa helped them.
TRY THIS WEEK: Get lucky. Believe you can.