The hole I dug in the side yard was deep, to me. I was short. When I stood in the hole it came almost to my shoulders. I had dug all day.
Passers-by on the street stopped and observed my digging. They were impressed, mostly. Praised my labor, though one claimed I was making a foolish mess. A foolish one.
I found a penny covered in clay as I scooped out a spade of dirt onto the pile. Just a penny. Unspectacular except for the face of an old King on the front of it, the Queen was not yet throned. 1936 was the date on the back. The oldest penny I ever found, in the dirt in the side yard. The only one I ever found there.
It had a tiny dot beneath the date, between the 9 and 3. It was buried deep. I wondered how it got to be hidden so far down. And how I knew to dig a hole right there to find it.
A passer-by said, “What are you digging?” I said, “a hole.” He said, “it’s deep.” I said, “I’m part Chinese.”
That side yard where I dug, when I was ten, is an outside patio for Original Joes now. The old walk up, where we lived in the apartment beside the Chinese grandma, is still there. The Chinese grocery store is a little restaurant. A little Original Joe’s. The Chinese grocer once paid me to help unload the truck and bring new groceries into his store for him to sell. He liked me, because I’m part Chinese.
My hole is still there, I suppose, though it is filled in. It waits beneath the concrete slab to become a sinkhole. I left the penny there.
Just a penny. Left there as a treasure for a future digger to find. Left it there because my mother called me in for supper and made me put the dirt back first.
The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm – Aldous Huxley