A few days ago, I was placing a load of whites into the washer, when my youngest son walked in. He’s eight. The second he saw me, he flashed me one of his “clever” smiles—this smile’s the smallest of all of his smiles. The “clever” smile only lifts up the right side of his mouth, and, as it attempts to not reveal any teeth, it wrinkles up his nose a little, too. It’s the smile my son uses when he’s got an ornery idea.
At first, I couldn’t figure out what could’ve inspired this rare smile; we were in the laundry room, after all. As I added detergent, I silently watched him.
The wrinkles on his nose relaxed a bit as the dryer creaked open. Then, he removed the lint trap and stuck his hand clear down to its base. After a few moments, his lips shifted into one of his “excited” smiles. This smile’s the largest of all his smiles—both sides of his mouth lift up and create two perfect, deep dimples. He pulled his hand out of the lint trap, and in his palm rested a single, dusty silver dollar.
He buffed the coin on his jeans as he slowly shifted his gaze toward me—it was hopeful it’d be met by my “it’s okay” smile. I gave it to him. As soon as he realized that silver dollar was truly his, he carefully placed it into his back pocket and dashed out of the room.
As I stood there finishing laundry and pondering our silent encounter, it occurred to me that I’d just witnessed something truly special…
My son loves coins; he’s always loved them. Coins buy him candy, sure—but that’s not the reason he loves them so much. He adores their shape, their shine, and the way they sound, jingling inside his tin coin-box.
Quite simply, he loves coins because they are coins.
I have a thousand memories of my youngest searching for and finding coins—around the washer, in the dirty clothes pile, under the couch cushions. He’s even been known to scout the neighborhood for a stray penny or three. Searching the lint trap, however, was a new one. I’d never seen him do that before, and the smile that he wore into the laundry room that afternoon told me that he’d never tried it before, either. It was a shared first.
At that moment, I realized that this first was shared because he’d tried something new, and he’d found something new—and, alongside him, I discovered a new something, too. My son had never seen a silver dollar before that moment. He just knew that it was big, special, and that it’d sound nice hitting against the smaller ones inside his tin box. Similarly, I realized that all of the smaller coin-related moments looked nice beneath this one. This moment was the big one placed on top of all the smaller ones. “Clink-clink,” this was the moment that made me really begin to associate coins with my youngest.
Now, anytime I see a stray nickel, an abandoned penny, or the ever-rare silver dollar, I’ll think of my son and our silent, silver moment inside our laundry room.
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