Monday, October 4, 2010


Within: The Silvery Dime

There are thousands of stories from the wartime house papering the back of my mind. The back of my mind is the place where the unexplainable exists and has been with me since I was old enough to realize I had a mind.

I became aware that I must carry the mystery with me quietly on one cold November day when I was about 11 years old. The first snow had blanketed the neighbourhood and it was such a clear day with a grey sky. The snow is so beautiful and bright. It generates optimism in me.

My brother had entered Sisler for grade seven so that meant my mom became a band volunteer. She had an armload of red band uniforms that needed to have all of the buttons replaced: the cuffs, the epaulettes, the tails, the pockets, and the double-breasted front. It was a big job and the pile of uniforms had taken up space on the chesterfield for the better part of a week. Dad was at work, and the Sisler High School Band needed the uniforms the next day, so she had no choice. She had to carry the uniforms all the way back to the school in her arms, snow or no snow. And it had been a busy day for her. She had done laundry and since it was a Saturday, we kids were coming and going and creating havoc underfoot.

It wasn’t until Dad got home from work at about four o’clock that I realized that Mom was in a panic and really upset. She was weeping quietly to herself and hugged my dad as soon as he came into the house. They sat at the corner of the kitchen table and talked quietly and my mom cried and my dad put his hand on her back.

“What’s wrong?” I had to ask.

She held out her left hand and I walked toward it. I didn’t see anything wrong.

“She lost the diamond from her engagement ring, Nancy,” said Dad softly.

I looked again and saw the claws poking into thin air and her freckled finger below where the stone should have been.

“Let’s go over it again,” he said. And this time I listened.

She blubbered though her chores and her tromp in the snow all the way across the tracks to Sisler and back. They talked about taking apart the plumbing and asking the band teacher to check the uniforms.

“It’s no use,” she said. “It’s gone.”

But I could see it. I knew where it was.

“I’ll get it!” I said. But they didn’t pay any attention.

I took a kitchen chair into the snowy backyard and put it on the clothesline stand. My dad had used his World War II ammunition box as a clothes peg holder and it was nailed to the outside wall of the back shed. I stood on the chair on my tiptoes, lifted the army green metal lid, and looked into the ammunition box. There it was. I picked it up and carried it into the kitchen and handed it to my mom.

They were happy again.

Many years later, my dad was in his dying days and my mom was caring for him in the wartime house. I lived about 500 kilometres away and visited as often as I could. During a winter visit, it was quiet. Dad was resting. I’d been there for a couple of days and finally I asked, “Why aren’t you wearing your wedding rings, Mom?”

She looked down, and then up at me. She gently shook her head.

“I lost them. Please don’t tell your dad.” They’d been missing for over two months.

But I could see them. I knew where they were.

I went to the back shed and pulled the heavy chest freezer away from the wall. There they were, on the floor behind the freezer. I picked them up and carried them to her and put them in her hand. She smiled and shed a silent tear as I told her where I had found them.

I eventually became the owner of those two rings and now I wear the diamond engagement ring. I don’t really like it except when it is under water and beside the thick sterling silver band I wear on the thumb of the same hand. Then, when it is under water, the dime shines as brightly as the silver. It glows to life and I can see inside the dime. It takes my memories and frees them from beneath my chest and from the back of my throat. The silver is pure and crystal clear, full of air and hope and explanations about what has painted my world and who I have become.

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