Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Ballad of Lucky Joe...

It’s Tuesday, April 18, 2006 and I’m back home. I just want to start by saying how glad I am to be back home. I had a great time during my visit to Nashville, but I like the feel of my own bed. It’s a beautiful perfect spring day here – really absolutely lovely. The plane ride, though smooth, was still cramped and I was surrounded once again by hacking people. My wonderful friend Jackie picked me up from Philadelphia International and we headed straight to Collingswood where we met Janet at this great Italian restaurant Bistro Di Marino. This place has a great environment and equally wonderful food. I had the Chicken Saltimbocca. You can read a few reviews here.

One of the first things that I noticed when dropping off my bags before dining last night and over coffee this morning were how wonderfully the tulips that I planted last autumn had grown. They are truly spectacular. Here are some close ups of them…

Lovely. So, I’m sitting here at Grooveground Coffee in Collingswood

and I realize that it’s Self-Portrait Tuesday. I haven’t taken part in that in quite some time, but the mood struck, so here it is.

There I am in all of my unretouched gloriousness.

Now I must write about a wonderful surprise that I discovered this morning sitting quietly in my kitchen thanks to my wonderful and thoughtful partner George. First, let me introduce you to “Lucky Joe”.

I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned Joe or not in this blog, but just for clarification for this entry, I will introduce him anew. Joe is a bank. A coin bank made from glass that at one time in the 1930’s was purchased, full of mustard, by my grandmother, Lillian O’Brien, at the urgings of her daughter, my mother, Maureen O’Brien. Nash-Underwood produced “Lucky Joe” in 1938 and they were made to celebrate the boxer Joe Lewis who became the world heavyweight champion in 1937.

I have loved Lucky Joe since I was a small boy. I grew up thinking that there was some sort of magic in the jar. Who knows why little kids think these things – I just did. Maybe it was Joe’s face with his big knowing eyes and egnimatic smile. Perhaps it was the fact that it had been my mother’s when she was a little kid. When I was a small child myself, thinking about my parents as being that age seemed like something from another world. The fact that something as simple as a mustard jar had remained from that period fascinated me then. It still does.

Now that both of my parents are gone, I treasure the jar. I have had it for many years and I developed a little ritual that I have stuck with ever since Joe came into my possession. Every time I run across any coin older than 1950, which becomes more and more difficult as time goes by, I place it in Lucky Joe and make a little wish. Somehow, I like to think that the wish is heard by the combined spirits of my parents and helped along the way. I’m always very careful about what I wish for when I run across these coins, because I think that these coins are relatively rare to begin with and even more rare when they make an appearance in my pocket. Some of these coins have been traveling around the world for close to 90 years! As far as I am concerned, they will take a brief rest in their history in my jar until I pass it one to some lucky person one day – and their journey begins again. To me, it’s about as close to magic as one can get nowadays.

So, this morning, I’m stumbling through the kitchen bleary-eyed trying to make coffee and my attention is drawn to the little wooden bowl that George and I keep spare change in. There, sitting neatly atop the stack of various silver coins, is a little tarnished penny. I knew instantly that it was a wheat penny! These are my particular favorites to place in Lucky Joe. I picked it up and, blinking the sleep out of my eyes, examined it carefully. I saw that it was a 1919-S Lincoln wheat penny.

Once I saw the date I was amazed. This little coin has been traveling about for close to 90 years and here it was sitting on top of the spare change bowl. I immediately phoned George who is at our place at the beach and he told me that he had left it there for me. What a wonderful thing to do – one of the reasons that I love him so much. He said it just appeared in his pocket one afternoon. I carefully placed it in Lucky Joe and made a silent wish. I can only expect that it will come true – most wishes usually do in one way or the other. Sometimes, magic can just appear in your pocket when you need it the most.

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