Monday, February 21, 2011

Penny Walks

As I write this, snow is swirling outside, yet again covering everything in sight. I meant to write this a few days ago because I think it would have been more timely, but no matter... 

The recent thaw brought to mind penny walks, an important part of my childhood. I have come to the realization that I actually AM quite weird. Yes, I know, you're thinking it's about time that I have understood this...but more than that, my childhood was quite abnormal in the best way possible. I used to think I was rather 'normal' up until very recently, but when you start talking about 'normal' things that you did when you were a child and people stare at you like you're from another planet...well then you know something is up. Apparently I did many strange and abnormal things as a child. Penny walks being one of them.

A typical street in Minneapolis
I think of penny walks and realize that they are very specific to my upbringing. Growing up in the city in Minnesota, where there's lots of snow, where people actually walk outside in the winter, and where people carry spare change for the bus all play a part in penny walks. When I was young, my mother would try many different things to get me out of doors. I would go on walks at the nature center with my siblings, and play outside in the snow all the time, but penny walks originally were another ploy to get us in the fresh air in late winter when the snow is just starting to melt. 

During the winter, the greedy claws of snowbanks will snatch away anything you drop in them, spare change included and when the weather finally warms up they are forced to release their icy grip on the treasures held within. And that's where penny walks come in. I would go on walks with my mom, and my siblings  and we would have a competition to see how much spare change we could find. At the end of our jaunt, whoever had the most money would gain bragging rights until the next time we ventured out. 

The bent and broken street pennies
We found more than just pennies, such as dimes, nickels, and the ever sought after quarters. Once I found a $20 winning already scratched off lottery ticket, and at another time a $20 bill frozen in the ice. Through all those walks over the years my eyes have been keenly trained to spot the small metal disks. At one point I even gained the nickname of Eagle Eyes, because I could spot a penny like a bird of prey finds a mouse. As time went on I would jump at the chance to go on a penny walk, and it ended up usually only being my mom and I walking. 

We would swing by penny street, not it's actual name but the one it gained because you were always guaranteed to find some spare change on it. My mother and I probably looked quite strange as we walked placidly down the sidewalk, only to suddenly burst into screams of "PENNY PENNY!!" and "I SAW IT FIRST" while pointed madly at a spot in the road or on the sidewalk, the rule being whoever sees it first gets it. At other times we would suddenly lunge towards the pavement to snatch up the copper disks. The curb was also a coveted position because it gave you a perfect view of the street and the sidewalk, I would walk along it like a balancing gymnast ready to leap off at a penny's notice. We always tried to walk side by side, because whoever was in front had an unfair advantage, and if someone started walking ahead the other would walk even faster, and soon we would be sprinting and sweeping our gaze back and forth rapidly searching.

Being away here at college I've been able to experience the wonders of penny walks. I haven't been counting....but I think I've found 37 cents this thaw. My friends laugh at me as I suddenly stop in mid stride to pick up a penny, nickel, or dime on the pavement, but I don't think they understand that...

...To this day I can't pass a humble penny on the sidewalk. 

1 comment:

  1. Yep. Your childhood was weird. I'm glad you realized it.