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Penny makes its way back to original owner

Have you ever come across a simple gifted item from your distant past and considered the person who gave it to you? Have you wondered if the gift giver recalls giving you the item, or knows how much it has meant to you over the years?

As a thirtysomething wife and mother of one, I am working on "simplifying" our house's contents. My husband and I are sorting through everything in our house -- emptying every storage box we brought into our marriage, or have gathered over the years, and either recycling, donating, throwing out or retaining its contents.

We've cleared a lot out of our house. (I'm sure our neighbors wonder if we're moving.) Although I have very few "sentimental junk" items, as some may refer to them, my childhood possessions have significant value to me.

One day, while sifting through a box of childhood mementos, I came across my small, but meaningful, penny collection. As a child, I'd set aside pennies that weren't considered collectibles, a simple and harmless childhood hobby. One unusual coin in my collection was an Atlantic City "good luck" penny given to me by a grammar school classmate.

Jeff, my fellow second-grader at St. Barnabas School in Depew, bestowed to me a "good luck" penny cranked out from an Atlantic City souvenir machine.

At the time, Jeff told me the penny was run over by a train behind his house, which flattened the coin like a pancake. Since I had never traveled outside Western New York, I believed the train story, thanked him for the coin and proudly added it to my penny collection.

Fast forward 28 years to 2008. While sorting through my solitary box of childhood mementos stored in our attic, I came across a small porcelain box of pennies, including that "good luck" penny. I smiled and thought to myself, "I wonder if Jeff remembers this penny. I'll mail it to him and see if he does."

So off to the post office I went, armed with a small envelope containing that simple little pancake-like coin, wrapped in bubble wrap. As I stood at the post office counter, I smiled, wondering what his reaction would be upon opening my mailing.

A week went by and I received an e-mail from Jeff. And that's when my smile grew.

Jeff clearly remembered the penny I returned to him. He told me the penny was from a family trip he took when he was about 4 years old, the only time his family ever vacationed together. Jeff said the penny is the only remaining memento from that trip, which has more significance now since his father passed away in 2007.

Jeff didn't remember the train story, but looked forward to sharing the penny with his mother and sister at a family gathering that upcoming weekend. On the same day he received my penny, he had picked up a restored Corvette his dad had willed to him, and decided to place the penny in the car's ashtray.

He thanked me for saving the penny for 28 years, and promised to hold onto it for 28 more years.

As a child and as an adult, I've never passed by a penny on the ground without picking it up. I guess it's always good to have an extra cent or two on hand, just in case you need it for yourself, or to share with someone else.

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