The painted cigar box sits on a table next to my bed. A golden hand print on the front."Happy Father's Day," written inside by that same hand 53 years ago. The top loose, no longer attached.
It is filled with things my father kept. Mainly Father's Day cards from my sister and me. One from my mom. But also two poems and one story that I wrote in newly learned cursive on wide margin notebook paper. The penciled words barely legible. Two photographs of his mother.
And, on top, a small leather coin holder. The zipper broken. Pieces of yellowed and aged tape holding the sides of the cracked and faded leather together. If you look closely, you can see the imprint of little circles the size of dimes on the rough leather inside.
There is nothing to indicate why he would have kept this little purse. And there is no one to ask.
I think he may have sold newspapers on the streets of Chicago when he was a boy. And I wonder if this could have been where he kept the coins he collected. The one thing he saved from a childhood where he didn't have much. But research tells me that it is unlikely that newspapers from the 20's or 30's would have brought in dimes the size of the faint imprints. Two cents or a nickle are the more likely price.
And so I wonder if this was something that survived in his pocket during the course of the war. That traveled across oceans on ships and across Burma in trucks on bumpy roads. A talisman of sorts that ensured his safety and allowed him to travel home and meet my mother, which he would have considered his real luck. And would have allowed him to put the purse away as no longer needed. Although still kept.
For years the box was just something I had made that sat in one of Dad's drawers in the tall chest in my parents' bedroom. His underwear drawer to be precise. I saw it often because it was in the same drawer where he threw coins, mainly silver, which I somehow knew had value slightly more than their stated cents. But which were nonetheless tempting when I needed a dime or a quarter for a trip to the swimming pool or a candy bar from the local store.
I saw it differently when I took it from his drawer after he died and looked inside.
And I see it differently now, at a time when it appears that I will be making a move that will require me to get rid of things I no longer need.
My daughter will take some things. And I can box and store other things. But still, what to keep weighs heavy. There will need to be a lot of whittling. Not just of things that have value. But of things I have carried from move to move.
Things like a little leather coin holder that no one knows the story of.