WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOUR NICKEL WAS MINTED? By Marilyn Armstrong

I picked up the only coin I have larger than a penny. I used to have coins in my wallet. These days, I never have anything except a few odd pennies. Why is that? It isn’t even that I pay entirely by plastic. I actually do most of my grocery shopping with cash, so there ought to be coins. Quarters, dimes, nickels.

All I found was one single nickel, dated 1978.

That was the year I got a divorce, grabbed my kid, and moved us both to Israel.

It was a big year. A mighty year. I was giving up a really great job (the best one I ever had), a lot of close friends. I was moving with my 9-year-old son to a country where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language. I would stay there for almost ten years and then, I’d turn my life over (again) and move back to America.

I would come home for the rest of my life. And here I am in the middle of a pandemic. Of all my future predictions, this was NOT on the list.

I see my life in chapters. Childhood years from which I escaped via college and in the middle of that, married a man who was kind to me and was absolutely nothing like my father. It turned out that there’s a reason why early marriages often fail. You are young. He is young. You both change, but not necessarily in the same way. You don’t agree with each other anymore. We always liked each other, but between 18 and 30, I grew up. He was exactly the same as he was when we met and proud of it. When I said I wanted a divorce, he pointed out that he had not changed.

“I know,” I said. “And that is the problem.”

So I went to a place I’d always wanted to go.

My home in Baka, Jerusalem

At the end of January 1978, my son and I arrived at Lod airport. Neither of us had ever been to Israel. Owen knew absolutely nothing of the place. I had read a great deal about it … history, legends, guidebooks, and novels. We had no friends or family in the country, nor were we familiar with the language or customs.

Despite this, we would make it our home and both of us would grow to love it.

And the nickel reminded me of all of it.

15 thoughts on “WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOUR NICKEL WAS MINTED? By Marilyn Armstrong

  1. I had a brief fascination with coin collecting when I was a kid. I had a whole set of pennies for every year back to 1959, the first year the Lincoln Memorial was on the tails side. It always frustrated me that I couldn’t find a quarter with the year of my birth on it…. then I found out that they didn’t make any 1975 quarters because they only made bicentennial quarters with 1976 stamped on it that year. I felt like a leap day child being left out of the birthday fun…

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  2. That was such a cool post! 😀 Your reminiscence of 1978 evoked some memories of mine as well. I was eighteen that year and graduated from High School. Huge changes were waiting in the wings as I evolved (?) from the greenie from the sticks of tiny town Utah to the ‘big’ city of Salt Lake and experiences that bridged thirty four years. Thank you for the reminder to peek into the past now and then. One finds such treasures among the stones..

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  3. I have a handful of coins and a penny jar. I thought someday I would take the jar of pennies to the bank, but banks don’t like to count your coins anymore. I decided to slowly spend them. I look at the year on the coins as I take them out.

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    • Rich, I have a pile of coins in the rubble that’s also my office. I should take time to do the date thing on the coins. The running line from ‘The Train Robbers’ — “Something to do”.

      I sometimes take a batch of quarters with me — as backup to supermarket shopping.

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      • Last year I took coins my mother had set aside to the bank where a collector was set up to make offers. I sold him everything he would take if it was over face value. He bought the older silver coins based on the value of silver at the time. I kept all others.

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    • Wow! Did you go to J.H.S. 109 in Queens Village? Both Garry and I went there. It was a terrible school. Just AWFUL. At least I was “SP” and got through it in 2 years, but never learned fractions. You are the first person who came from that strange, lost bit of Queens where it was still the country in the middle of the city. I’d love to hear more.

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      • I went to PS 134, around the corner from The Island movie theatre, graduated 8th grade in 1960, then on to Andrew Jackson, class of ’64. I didn’t qualify for SP, my math was below level (but my reading was level 10.4). I lived at 111-05 209th Place, Queens Village 29, NY. I even remember the phone number – SPruce 6-0781. LOL

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        • I went to PS 35, by the Hollis Repertory Cinema, right near Jamaica Avenue. I went to Jamaica High School (it was a close call between Jamaica and Jackson, I was right on the border). I wasn’t close to either school, so it was a big schlep regardless.

          We didn’t need to be good at anything. Our SP was all IQ tests. If you were above 130, you were “in.” It was a stupid concept, but at least I didn’t have to stay in Junior High School for 3 years.

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    • Grace, I lived within long distance spitting distance of you and Marilyn. 177th Street in Queens aka ‘BRICKTOWN”. FROM ‘47 TO ‘54. I ATTENDED P.S. 116.

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