Friday, February 28, 2014

Love, Luck, & Pennies

Robert Wechsler

"See a penny, pick it up... all the day you'll have good luck."

When it comes to finding pennies, I'm like two sides of a coin. The rational side believes "A penny saved is a penny earned" while the flip side, foolishly thinks...  "Oh goodie, today's the day I win the lottery!"

And while I've yet to win the 'Powerball' or 'Mega Millions', except for small change, I still consider myself fortunate... "Knock on Wood".

I touch wood often, on purpose, to avoid tempting fate and to keep any luck I do have from disappearing. I also cross my fingers, carry charms, and perform quirky rituals in order to win the favor of Lady Luck, also known as Fortuna, the goddess shown blindfolded, holding a wheel, or standing on or juggling a ball, to explain her unpredictable benevolence.

Some people are born lucky. Others create their own luck by cultivating opportunities and following their tuition, and then there are those with no luck at all... like Maureen Wilcox, who in 1980, had the winning numbers to both the Massachusetts and Rhode Island lotteries, but didn't win a penny. Her Massachusetts numbers won the Rhode Island lottery and her Rhode Island numbers won the Massachusetts lottery.

As Calvin said to Hobbes in the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes'... "You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help."

You win, you lose, and in between there's superstition.

I suppose I inherited my superstitious ways from my dad, who inherited his from who knows where.

I grew up hearing idioms like... "Never walk under a ladder", "Beware of black cats crossing your path", "Step on a crack, break your mother's back", frightful thoughts.

And I was shown by example: when salt spills, some of it gets tossed over your left shoulder, when someone dies, mirrors are covered, and when moving into a new home, the male carries bread and salt into the house for prosperity while everyone else, my mother, two-year old brother and I, age five, lean against the car, a big black Buick, and wait.

Olimpia Cerda

I knew of these superstitions but understood little. They were mysteries... like the pennies in every drawer of our house sprinkled among the functional clutter of string, batteries, tape, pencils and more.

Dad liked pennies. Besides the ones he put in drawers for good luck, he also collected wheat pennies and hid them away, while the ordinary copper pieces, saved for a rainy day, were kept in one of those gigantic water-cooler bottles.

When bored, my dad would pour the contents of this less than half-full container onto the kitchen table and sort his pennies into stacks, ten pennies high. I'd sneak in, sit down beside him, and hear him say, "Who asked you?", which in 'dad talk' meant "Stay... I love you."

We'd sit silently stacking pennies, opening paper rolls from the bank, and with index fingers wedged inside the paper wrappers, load our coins, 50 pennies to a roll. Then we'd fold the open ends closed and begin the packing process again and again, until done.

Years later, while on a plane from San Francisco to New York, our flight attendant held up a bottle of Möet champagne, a prize to be awarded to the passenger with the most pennies. I looked at Michael, and he at me, knowing we had this contest in the bag... literally. For on board, in our carryon, among our other valuables, were several bank rolls filled with wheat pennies.

As fast as people began rummaging for coins in their pockets and purses, I held up the pennies saved for my dad. I suppose the contest looked rigged as we appeared to be unbeatable contestants, but things changed fast when everyone onboard started pooling their pennies. It became us versus an entire plane-load of people, with Michael and I finally declared the winners!

It wasn't long before the grumbles and dissension among 'losers' turned to cheer and good wishes when they learned we were flying home to be married.

Luck? Fate? Opportunity? Coincidence?

I like to think of the penny contest and the prized champagne as a sign, gifts from the gods, the 'Universe' approving of our union bestowing blessings upon us lasting beyond this lifetime.

"Knock on Wood!"

"A penny for your thoughts"

Pennies... Pick them up? Toss them in a fountain? Save them in a piggy bank? What do you do with your pennies?

Are you superstitious? Do you have a good luck charm?

What's your good luck story?

Here are a few links you might find interesting:

Robert Wechsler's short video on the making of his 'Penny Sculptures' here.

83 Things You Can Do With a Penny here.

Richard Wiseman's short video on 'The Luck Factor' here.

How Superstitions Work here.

Superstitions Under The Big Top / Circus here.

10 Bizarre Celebrity Superstitions here.

Well... that's my two cents worth.
Best of luck to you in whatever you do.

XOX... Dyan


  1. Lovely story. Brought a tear to my eye.

  2. Having been raised in an Italian Catholic household, (a dime was taped to the bottom of the Infant of Prague Statue to insure prosperity) there was a wealth of traditions, sayings, superstitions, and beliefs that evoked a passion, destiny,
    and uniqueness in life. They truly were connections from an interior voice
    to "the ears of God". The sense of guardian angels, destiny, higher power, an invisible world, "being a small frog in a large pond" was the food for my soul and imagination.
    Now being a thoroughly modern person, with a modern arrogant attiude of doubt and skepticism to boot, I am quick to throw some shade on my early
    fantastic beliefs, the 'spells, smells, and bells" of my earlier age.
    Yet once I was camping on the big island of Hawaii not far from the current erupting volcano. (The native Hawians believe this is the current residence of the Godess, PELE) I decided to take a hike towards the edge of the coast. Nature and a deep sense of love swept over me while I stood in this most remote space I'd ever experienced. Looking over the Pacific Ocean, I found myself asking for some concrete sign of the spiritual realm. "Lo and behold" no sooner was the request pronounced within, then a large sea turtle popped up out of the water. turned its head towards me, and jumped back into the ocean.
    Alas-----"I do, I do, I do, I doooo believe" as the cowardly lion exclaimed in the Wizard of Oz".

  3. Your story about you and your dad putting pennies in rolls made me smile. So did the story of you and Michael winning the penny contest on the airplane.

    I like to have a few pennies in my purse so that when I'm paying for something, I use them to keep from getting more of them in change. I will throw pennies into a fountain and will pick one up from the ground. Not for good luck but just because it doesn't belong on the ground. Rob has an extensive penny collection that he started when he was a kid. They are in little blue books with indentations to house each individual penny.

    I'm not superstitious. The only thing I do is say "Knock on wood" but I don't really believe that it means anything. I use it as an expression that I hope something does or does not happen.

    I can recall two times when I was lucky. In each instance, I won a Longaberger basket. I happen to love Longeberger baskets and they are expensive. They're hand made in Dresden, Ohio. The headquarter building is a giant basket. Check it out on Google. It's really cool.

    I enjoyed the Mendicant Sculptures by Robert Wechsler. The process looks so tedious! I wonder how long each one takes to make.