Andrea and I started saving coins when we were still newlyweds. We had a large clear glass jug in the corner of the room and every evening we would fill it with the change from our pockets. We called it our Vacation Fund. And we were only half joking. Because someday we hoped to take a trip and cash in all of our coins and spend it while we were far away in some exotic location. I was going to spend my share on tiny Swiss chocolates made by hand at a monastery in the Alps. Andrea would buy cute toe nail polish made from the nectar of rare African plants. This jar was our ticket to royalty.
But dreams die. My dreams of chocolate melted in the heat of my increasing use of a credit card, and Andrea’s nail polish went extinct as the flow of coins into our home slowed to a trickle. Soon there was more dust collecting in the jar than there were coins. The jar was moved to a dark corner of our craft room and was forgotten like most valuable treasures throughout history.
Several years later the seal of this tomb was opened, and two young adventurers found their way to the lost relic. They immediately understood that it had value, even if it was a treasure composed from a currency that they themselves did not use. Ironically, in their world, the currency of choice was tiny chocolates and black market stolen nail polish. But there isn’t a heart born to man that doesn’t understand that there is value in a shiny coin.
The two little girls over turned the jar on the floor and proceeded to bathe themselves in the riches.
They lived off of this money for a long time. Having no income of their own, they needed something to fuel their tireless need to put money into candy machines in grocery stores entryways. Endlessly cranking my vacation fund into oblivion in exchange for over priced rubber balls, rainbow pony stickers, mysterious plastic crystals that caught the sun, and tiny handfuls of Runts, Chiclets, Tic Tacs, etc.
Everyday the jar became more and more empty. Everyday Clara’s little coin purse became more and more heavy. Until one day she apparently gave up on the coin purse all together, and started carrying the jar around with her instead. A jar that just a few short years ago she herself could have fit inside of.
I crawled into the back of our minivan the other day to find her hugging it to her chest like a massive log from a transparent tree.
I paused, staring at her as she struggled to unbuckle her seat belt with one hand while holding the ancient jug steady on her lap with the other. Finally she saw me watching her and leaned to peer around the edge of it.
“Clara,” I said. “Why did you bring that jug full of coins in the car?”
She laughed and then almost choked on her laughter as she strained to roll the huge chunk of glass off of her lap. “Dad!” She sang, and then sighed, “If you don’t even know why I brought it, how am I supposed to know!?” She continued laughing while she herself tumbled through the car like a wayward log, kicked down a hill. Then she rolled out the side door onto the ground. Still laughing at the apparent absurdity of my question.
I watched as she stood back up, dusted herself off, adjusted her pants, and then launched in pursuit of her brother and sister.
After she was gone I looked back into the van and at the jar sitting quietly in the backseat. Maybe this was fate? Maybe deep down I did know why she had brought this jar of money and left it abandoned in the backseat of my car. I was now alone, holding the keys to a car that contained nothing except my vacation fund. In one direction, my family, an exhausting herd of mewing cats pouncing on my head all night and clawing at my face. In the other direction, a wide open road clear all the way to Switzerland. I smiled to myself, locked the car, and hurried to catch up with my family.