penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

What’s in a name?

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Garbage day may not seem like an auspicious day.  That being said, you never know what you might find by the side of the road.

About a week ago, my kids, husband and I were skipping along to school. My daughter, always ahead, saw it first.  “Look, someone’s throwing away a castle!”

We all stopped and gathered around it. Between the garbage bin and the green bin was a very well loved Fisher-Price toy castle – missing a couple of doors, stickers peeled off (and added on) coloured all over in marker.

My son squinted up, “Can we keep it?” as if it were a lost puppy.  My third child already had his chubby hands inside a tower.

My husband started to make noises, “Another plastic thing?  It’s too big.  It’s in the garbage for crying out loud.”

The kids looked at me.  They know I’m a professional collector of used stuff – especially giant plastic stuff. I hate the idea of it going into the landfill, especially if it is still usable.  And what the heck, it’s free.

“Why don’t we see if it’s still here when Daddy walks back,” I reasoned.  “If it is, he can bring it home.”

My husband wasn’t thrilled but the kids were excited and I played the landfill card.  “Alright,” he sighed.

When we arrived home that evening  our home had a castle on its front door step.  I brought it inside and promised the kids I would wash it so they could play with it in the morning.

The next day, I brought it into our “play room.”  The kids played with it like it was the best toy ever.  They introduced it to all their Little People and an assorted lot of dinky cars vroomed up and down its ramparts.

Their interest waned after a while until only my one son – who has an imagination as big as a planet – was left alone with it, lying on his side, singing to himself, passing a metal object back and forth that I couldn’t quite see.

“What are you doing?” I asked the dreamer quietly.  “Playing with my penny in a castle,” he responded.

My mind exploded.

Some people, when they hear music, they see colours.  Or they have strong emotions.

In my case, occasionally when someone says a phrase or strings certain words together, it’s so evocative that it does something similar. I think “There’s a song in there somewhere, or the title of a book.”  And then my brain usually goes off on a holiday into some of the farther reaches of the galaxy.

As soon as my son spoke, both my husband and I looked at each other as if we’d heard strange music from far away.    I started to sing a jokey-folky song, about Penny leaving her true love to live in a castle far away, leaving him to pine for her.  My husband fired up a Pogues-esque song, about princesses leaving a lad in droves – first Cinderella, then Snow White – until he is left penniless in his castle.  Our mutual love of a play on words is one of the many, many reasons we have stayed married.

While my husband busied himself with making pancakes, the phrase stuck with me – echoing in my mind, whirling and pin-balling into other ideas.  I began to write in my head – full length articles and entries into journals in the ether – a sure sign that I needed to put them down somewhere. And for the first time, I decided I would share.

Penny for your thoughts?

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Written by pennyinacastle

November 17, 2012 at 3:09 am

Posted in Random thoughts

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