The Halloween afternoon block party broke up around five-thirty, and groups of little spooks, dressed in their most creative costumes, started. My Sammy joined six others close to his age and led by another parent. I stayed at home to answer our door since my husband was working late.
Sammy with his friends came to ‘trick-or-treat’ at our house early, thanked me and were on their way.
Later Sammy returned and entered our den to empty his Halloween goodie bag. I looked on since I knew he’d cast aside candy and items he would not eat, like red licorice sticks, that I loved.
“Look, Mom,” he said excitedly, “look at the money I got,” as he held a large coin.
My eyes widened, “Let me see that, honey,” as I moved closer. He was holding a brand new real Silver Dollar. It was a shiny uncirculated Morgan Dollar dated 1919. It has the Liberty head on one side and the U.S. Eagle opposite. Sammy was excited, and I asked him who gave it to him or at least which house.
He shrugged his shoulder, “Don’t know. I didn’t know it was there.”
“What about one of the other children?”
Again, he shrugged his shoulders, and continued sorting through the goodies. He didn’t know the value was forty dollars or more. Puzzling. After I let him pick all I was willing for him to eat, he was off to the TV set to see a Halloween special animated feature.
I called other parents. They were puzzled as well about their child’s silver dollar.
What I mystery, I thought. Such an expensive gift and way beyond anything anyone could possible expect. I put Sammy’s dollar in a safe place. He was off to school. I had a mystery on my hands I was determined to solve. Everyone else was baffled.
I eliminated homes that let the child reach in and get their own. That still left about a third that simply placed a handful in each child’s sack, and the child didn’t see. I began a list. Some I knew well and called them to find out what they put in the sacks. No luck, but eliminated more possibles.
With sleuth work, I was down to a few that included our neighbor across the street, kindly Mrs. Bernice Ginshaw. She knew all our kids from the time the older ones were little, cut her grass, and she baked cookies regularly and brought them to my children over many years. She was bent with white hair but still walked outside daily. We knew her husband didn’t get out much these past years.
Thinking of Mrs. Ginshaw and her kindness over the years, I thought I’d walk across the street and pay her a visit. She finally heard my knock at the carport door.
“Well, Clair, so good to see you again. Would you like to come in?”
“I would, Mrs. Ginshaw.” We sat on old antique upholstered furniture.
“So what brings you over here today?” she inquired.
“Last night was a busy Halloween, wasn’t it?” I said, beginning a gentle probe.
“Oh my yes, it was wonderful seeing all the little spooks and goblins again last night.”
I nodded and paused, looking down. Then I raised my head and asked, “So what kind of treats did you hand out last night?”
I watched her carefully. Her smiling expression changed to one of surprise for a flickering moment, then she regained her composure and said, “Oh, you know, just a handful of mini-Hershey bar products. The children seem to love them so.”
That flicker was enough. I felt emboldened but did not want to act like a police investigator to this gentle friend of our family for so long. “Well, eh, any chance you had something else in your hand with you placed it in the children’s sacks?”
She paused. Drew her back a bit straighter and took a deeper breath. I was not sure she was going to say anything. I couldn’t quite read the expression on her face.
She smiled, “I think you may have discovered my secret. Yes, it was me who put the dollars in the children’s sacks. But you must promise me that you won’t tell anyone else. That you will keep it our secret.”
“But it was such a generous and expensive gift to put in the Halloween sacks. You must have given out a lot.”
“Fifty-five,” she replied. “I guess you want to hear the story.”
I was all ears, and after agreeing to her wishes, I leaned in so as not to miss a word from the age weakened voice of this sweet lady.
“My Herbert is in a nursing home and in late stages of Alzheimer's disease. Most days, he doesn't know who I am.”
“I’m sorry. I knew we hadn’t seen him around for a long time but didn’t know he wasn’t here.”
“Yes, and I pains me to say, they don’t give him much longer to live. We’ve had a wonderful life together, even though we never were able to have children. We both have enjoyed our years in the neighborhood. Moved here sixty-six years ago, three years after we were married. We’ve particularly enjoyed seeing all the children grow up, and yours especially, Clair.”
I nodded intently and smiled, remembering all her trips to our house to bring us homemade bread or cookies.
“Well, I am not able to live here much longer and will move in with my younger sister just before Thanksgiving and be part of her family. It will be nice, but this was my last Halloween in the neighborhood.”
I felt a lump in my throat and water building in my eyes. “I understand,” I said. “We will miss you.”
“Thank you,” as she looked up, reflecting. “Well, I thought about Herbert’s collection of Morgan Silver Dollars. He has several hundred we’ve kept in our safe. He loved the mint-condition ones. I wanted to share them with the children of our neighborhood, but I didn’t want anyone to know. It might get the word out that we were rich with collector’s coins in the house,” drawing a breath, “and I don’t need any thanks or offers to return them as if I am a silly only lady that didn’t know what she was giving away. I hope you’ll keep my little secret.”
My emotions were making it difficult to talk with cotton in my throat, so I croaked out, “I understand, and I will keep your secret.”
We finished our talk, and I hugged Mrs. Ginshaw as if she were my own grandmother. She hugged me back. “Thank you, dear, for the years of lovely memories of your growing family. I feel like they are my grandchildren.”
With that comment, words failed me.
It was the last Halloween in our neighborhood for Mrs. Ginshaw. That was eight years ago. I solved the mystery, but I could never tell anyone. She died last month. She was ninety-eight years old. At last I can share her secret and the answer to the Halloween Mystery Silver Dollars. Today that particular Silver Dollar is framed in the room of my fourteen-year-old.