When you delve into the treasure trove your minds vault and start flipping through memories, it’s amusing what stands out. I recall the tangy kick of the aioli sauce that adorned this incredible hamburger at this local gathering spot in an unnamed town, where it was always breezy. Ok, it was downright windy our entire visit. Other details of the day, like the town itself or any adventures we did elude me. Yet, that sauce remains vivid. I guess you could say it left a strong “First Impression“
I have a flattened coin featuring a stamped scene from that very place, safely tucked away in a jar that holds numerous other flattened coins, each representing an adventure across the United States. Those machines, you know the ones that you use a hand crank to flatten your little copper coin, are getting far more difficult for my family to find on our adventures. However when we stumble upon one, we are always prepared with fifty cents and a solitary penny.
Wikipedia calls these machines penny presses and they have been around since 1893.
During my son’s younger years, he would always seek out these machines at any tourist attraction we visited. For this very reason, I always carried quarters and pennies. With great excitement, he would insert his money into the slot and select a scene to imprint on his penny. It then became my responsibility to safeguard this precious memento and get it safely into our glass jar. We were forging memories. Even as he transitioned into a young adult, he would still seek out these machines, always eager to invest fifty-one cents to emboss his penny. Over time, my jar has become filled with these cherished memories.
On one occasion, while visiting a zoo in a town that I can only remember because it was so cold, we stumbled upon a penny press. I had just switched purses for the trip, so I didn’t have the customary loose change that I typically carry. I rummaged through the depths of my bag, past the squished, partially unwrapped purse gum and the trusty safety pin stuck to it (you never know when you will need one, my grandma would advise) until I discovered a few pennies and as luck would have it…two quarters!
My young son’s eyes lit up at the opportunity to flatten the coin and continue our tradition. As I placed the change into my son’s hand, another little boy rushed up to the machine, his excitement beaming from his sweet face. My son, still in the process of selecting a scene to imprint on his penny, stood beside the boy. The little boy’s parents explained that they had no change to operate the machine. His face showed sadness as he said, I really wanted the tiger to remember this day at the zoo. My son then handed the little boy his change and said, “Here, you can have my change, so you can remember today.” The little boy thanked my son and his eyes lit up as he inserted the change and selected the tiger scene. As we continued our walk through the zoo, I could not help but connect to the emotion of that moment. Seeing my son’s desire to ensure another child could experience this important part of his childhood made me feel immensely proud. Generosity, kindness and compassion were at the heart of that moment. I am grateful for my son’s gift to that little boy, a gesture of true generosity.