Pennies peeking out along the edges of sidewalks still stir something in me. I dust them off and tuck them in my pocket. I rub my thumb along the face and think quietly, “You might come in handy.” If a penny isn’t heads up, I’ll kneel down, flip it over, give it a tap, and say, “Be good luck for the next person.” I always walk away feeling luckier.
I stop for sparkles and toy jewels, scraps of paper, and rocks. Round rocks, flat rocks, stones with sparkles, clumps of broken concrete, doesn’t matter, if it catches my eye I will bend down and take a closer look. Sometimes I’ll carry the little treasures in the pocket of my coat and forget them for months, or ride around with them in the cup holder of my car, other times I’ll ferry them home to show the girls, or slip them into a corner of the yard. It is a holdover from when I was little, imagining that the things I was finding were somehow sacred. I found this coin against all odds.
There are a lot of things that growing up has changed for me—the monsters that I imagine in the dark don’t threaten me at bedtime, they lurk in bushes in parking lots, sometimes in broad daylight; unfairness isn’t meted out by people of authority, it’s my own decisions that bark words of reproach; Halloween candy has lost its magic; dressing up is less fun for fearing others will judge my choices. Sometimes the weight of the changes can make it feel as if there is no more Manda in me.
No more tree climbing or roller skating, no more boundless optimism and shrugging off of other people’s opinions. Fin is onto something with not wanting to grow up—parts of it stink. I try to channel youthful feelings, but it can feel forced and I give up on trying.
Then out of the blue I’ll be walking along and I’ll see an expanse of curb or a retaining wall, and like a labrador faced with a tennis ball, I am all chase and play. I hop up to balance, I leap off to skip across the sidewalk, avoiding the lines and cracks to protect spines and backs. I smile wide, not thinking how foolish I might look to someone, and instead focusing on where I can skip next. I’ll pad through the pine needle-blanketed ground in the back yard with the girls, “Isn’t it cool how it feels almost slippery?” I ask, and they laugh and nod, and we perform hysterical slipping contests.
A few weeks ago I noticed something about a necklace I have. It’s a little silver arrow connected to a chain that just barely loops around my neck. There have been times in my life that the length of the necklace would have sent me into a tailspin, lamenting the impossible girth of my neck. Then I would systematically move through every flaw on my body, followed quickly by my exhaustive list of personality deficits. I am fast becoming a master at the art of self-criticism.
The arrow is different. I don’t care about the length of the chain, in fact I am grateful for it. I have loved the arrow since first seeing it. It has a quality to it that reminds me of special finds, unexpected things in life that seem as if they were waiting for me. Feeling it close to my skin reminds me that there is a different direction, always another way that I can go.