This morning, while proofreading a particularly boring transcript of a municipal hearing on the suspension and termination of one of the village's high-ranking employees, I was surprised by my mind’s instinctive fight-or-flight response. From the dark recesses of useless memory came a flash of my kindergarten days in the Gertrude C. Folwell School in good old Mt. Holly, New Jersey.
During a recess I had fortuitously found a nickel on the path that led from the back fence up into the school yard. There was not a moment’s hesitation in my intentions; I took the five-cent piece to the Principal’s Office and turned it in.
The grey-haired smiling faces behind the impossibly tall counter filled out a 3x5 index card with my name, date, value of the treasure and my teacher’s name, and informed me that if no one claimed the fortune in the next two weeks, I could reclaim it and keep it all to myself.
Now before you judge my naiveté, please keep in mind that growing up in a family of five children being supported by an enlisted Air Force NCO’s salary, I was likely pulling down a hard 25 cents per week in allowance. This windfall I had discovered amounted to about 1/5 of my weekly income. If you were to find someone’s misplaced money that equated to 20% of your weekly income and not consider attempting to find the rightful owner, well, I think that would say more about you and how you might feel if it was your money that was accidentally lost.
Anyway, I had a hardy laugh at myself as I remembered my youthful angst waiting for the two weeks to elapse so that I could retrieve my fortune and head over to the Little Green Mount Store and buy some Red Hots or Good-n-Plenty. But as the innocent pleasures of childhood raced through the empty environs of my cranial cavity, I couldn't help but wonder if one of those kindly old schoolmarms wasn't secretly wishing the tiny towheaded boy would forget the nickel amid the vast distractions of primary education/playtime and she might slip the riches into her pocket and abscond with my much-deserved wealth.
Wow, what a half-century of life can do to an innocent mind!