73: Treasure Hunting

73: Treasure Hunting

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Treasure Hunting

What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure.

~Gene Perret

When I was a little girl, I used to walk with my grandmother up a quiet, poorly paved road that intersected the street on which she and my grandfather lived. We would stroll, hand in hand, moving at the equal pace of small child and elderly woman. The sun would be shining; the birds would be singing. I remember hearing the familiar call of “Bob White! Bob White!” Sometimes, butterflies would flutter in the grasses along the roadside, and the occasional car would rumble carefully past us. Grandma and I would chat about this and that, or we’d just walk in silence, enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company. Yet, for me, these times were not just a chance to get some exercise and be with my grandmother, though both were important. These walks were treasure hunts.

More often than not, mixed with the gravel and dust at the road’s edge, would be money. Not lots of it — a penny here, a nickel there. Sometimes, on really lucky days, I’d find a dime or even a quarter, but mostly pennies. Shining in the dirt, little copper and silver circles that I’d leap on, proudly show Grandma, and joyfully stuff into my pockets.

Some days, I wouldn’t find anything. “Maybe next time,” my grandmother would say. Other days, I’d come back from our walk with more than twenty-five cents to put in my piggy bank, or to buy penny candy — a genuine treat for a six-year-old. Looking back now, it wasn’t even the money that was such a big deal; it was the joy of discovery. It was the anticipation and the hope, the delight of finding something small left and forgotten along the side of the road that I could keep for myself. It made me feel so lucky, and so special. That simple act of finding spare change brought me happiness, and it’s a memory that has always been precious to me.

Yet, it wasn’t until years later, when I was in my late twenties, that that simple memory came to mean so much more to me than simply a child’s happiness. It was my mother who told me the secret, who revealed a truth I had never suspected but one that brought a whole new depth to my experience.

“Remember when you used to walk with Grandma up Cummings Road?” she started the conversation. All those years, she confessed, my grandfather used to drive up and down the walking route, dropping change for me to find.

I was amazed. He never told me himself, and it seems like he had never planned to. I remembered how he’d smile when I’d return from a walk and dig my find out of my pocket to show him, but I’d always thought he was just happy for my luck. I’d never imagined that he was the one responsible for it.

My grandfather was a gruff man, a World War II veteran who loved deeply, but usually guarded his emotions, especially his affection. He wasn’t a man who hugged me often as a child, but I had never doubted his love for me. He pushed me on the swings, held me up to cross the monkey bars, bought me root beer Popsicles, and shared a million other joyful moments. Now, I knew, he had given me joy in ways I hadn’t even connected to him.

Now, every once in a while, when I take a walk down the street, or even across a parking lot, I drop a penny or two, or maybe even a nickel or a dime, and watch it plink onto the pavement. I imagine some small child finding it, delighted at the discovery. They’ll never know someone put it there on purpose for them to find. But that’s part of the joy. Thanks, Grandpa.

~Laurie Leal

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