This weekend my niece turned one. Her party was in Philadelphia. Off we go.
It was a great party – she is (of course) the most adorable little one year old and as sweet as can be.
I figured if we were going to be near Philadelphia, we might as well go thru the city and soak in some history. Enter moans and groans from my kids. But, too bad, I am the one with the drivers license and I have always wanted to see the Liberty Bell. So we started off at the Liberty Bell Museum. Because it would make perfect sense that the Liberty Bell Museum would house the Liberty Bell. Don’t you think? Yeah, not so much.
It was a good thing though because that museum closed at 5pm and, for some reason, when you show up at 4:55ish, they aren’t exactly pushing tickets your way. We did see a lovely replica of the Liberty Bell and took a picture of it just in case the real Liberty Bell building closed at 5pm too. (The picture of the Liberty Bell above is the real deal. Luckily, that building closed at 7pm. Whew.)
I have always been a big fat patriotic dork and love this country. I am so proud of all we have accomplished and how we learn from our mistakes. I know we are not perfect – but I think we are as good as it gets. There’s no two ways about it – I heart America.
But I had more selfish reasons for wanting to see the Liberty Bell.
In 1976, the U.S. Mint printed a commemorative quarter in honor of the 200th birthday of the U.S. of A. On one side was a picture of the Liberty Bell – crack and all. When I was younger, my father had a bicentennial quarter collection. Every time he got change, he sifted through looking for the special quarters. If I found one, I would save it to give to him. He kept them in a very cool bank that was a clear cube with a Liberty Bell statue inside. When you put a quarter in the bank, it clinked and clicked against the bell. Good times!
I, on the flip of the coin, had a pinball habit.
Do you see where this is going? Yes, that was back in the day when a pinball machine was still entertaining and cost exactly 1 quarter for 1 game.
I stole borrowed some quarters from my Dad’s collection to play pinball at the local youth club. Yeah, I know. Brilliant. (You probably guessed that I did not exactly ask permission first. Clearly not the best approach. Ooops!)
Every Friday night the high schoolers had a dance at the youth club. Every Saturday night the middle schoolers had a dance.
My Dad knew there were exactly two suspects in the case of the missing quarters. My brother or the girl with the blisters on her thumbs and overuse injuries in her fingers. He told us that neither one of us would be allowed to attend the dances until someone fessed up. Smart that guy – no blaming – just giving us both the same opportunity to come clean with consequences for the other if we did not.
My brother was older – so his night was coming up fast. I had decisions to make. Disappoint my Dad or shortchange my brother. AUGH. I would like to believe that I confessed my crimes before Friday night and my brother was able to go to his dance. I believe I did. I don’t think my criminal streak ran deep enough to keep him from his night with friends.
Anyquarter, fast forward many years later. I now have that bank full of quarters. My Dad gave it to me. It was more significant even than the time when he passed me the car keys. Because along with that bank came his re-established trust that I would not waste the quarters away on pinball games and other foolishness.
Even now when I get change, I look for bicentennial quarters and every once in a while I find one. They always bring a smile to my face. And that bank is in my safety deposit box. It is a real treasure. My kids also keep their eyes open for those quarters – and yes, I have confessed my sins to them in hopes they can learn early from my mistakes – we’ll see how that goes.
So, while I fully appreciate all that the Liberty Bell stands for and I embrace its history. For me, it also represents the rise and fall of a stupid teenager who loved pinball a little too much – and it represents a Dad who loved her anyway – cracks at all. It may not be what the Founding Fathers intended but it is my own little slice of history.