Depending on in which generation you were born, you can either identify an object and its purpose or have no clue what it is or how it’s used because it was either before your time or after it. After it indicating it came into fashion for the younger generation when you were too old to care about such a thing. For example I don’t care about cell phones, and although I know how to make a call, I don’t know how to tweet or text on them, store numbers or the many other things people do on them.
The older generation—my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles—know things that they assume is common knowledge for me. After growing up with older than normal parents and visiting many museums, I have a better understanding of how things worked in the past and the everyday things people identify with.
Still, there are many I don’t know, and I’m reminded of this when I encounter a weird object at a yard sale. The queer look on my face as the person who owns the item describes its use is probably pretty funny, no doubt similar to the ones on the young faces when I mention 8-track cassettes. It makes me wonder if I should take a picture of one and put it in the family tree so that years from now my descendants can see clearly what I’m talking about.
Last week, while paying for my purchase, I was reminded of another item—so familiar to all of us at the moment—that will eventually fall into obscurity as those younger than ten years old grow up without it: the penny. The young girl at the cash appeared a little confused on how to handle the currency I gave her. As I walked away I realised that the penny with its lovely depiction of the maple leaf was going in the same direction as the 8-track cassette.
Many of us have already lost touch with the currency used in Canada by our ancestors. Most kids sixteen years and younger haven’t held a paper one dollar bill, and sixteen years from now, the kids born after today may not recognise the one cent piece.
The penny, the little copper-coloured coin that made its way into every piggy bank in Canada, was discontinued in May 2012. As people spend them, banks collect them and remove them from circulation. Jump to a year later, young store staff are confused and don’t know what to do with the odd currency. In the future, when their parents or grandparents start sharing family stories for family trees, this generation might look up with that queer face and think, what is a penny?
Just like that 8-track cassette, I could take a picture of the penny and include it in my genealogy files. Or I could scoop a few off the shelf and drop them into a time capsule of sorts, so when I share my stories with my grandchildren, I can pull them out and pass them around. I might also tell them that in the past, these shiny copper things could buy thoughts, just like they could buy penny candies.
Diane Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer based in central Nova Scotia. She is the alter-ego of Diane Lynn McGyver, author of The Man Who Reads Obituaries.