If I had a nickel …

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How often have you heard someone say, “If I had a nickel …”?

I heard someone say it recently in regards to our flamboyant and unpredictable president.

That expression jogged my memory. When I was a little kid, helping Dad do chores in the barn, Dad would often sing songs. When I think about it objectively now, I realize Dad wasn’t a great singer and didn’t have a very large repertoire, but you know how memories are, don’t you? We remember the things we want to remember the way we want to remember them, not necessarily the way they really were. They get bigger and more wonderful than might actually have been.

Anyway, like I said, I heard somebody say the old “If I had a nickel” line recently and it reminded me of a song Dad used to sing sometimes. I can’t even remember for sure how it all went. There were many verses, but they all meant essentially the same. The chorus was something like:

“If I had a nickel, you know what I would do?/ I’d spend it all on candy and give it all to you,/ ‘Cause that’s how much I love you, baby/ That’s how much I love you.”

There was another verse that started out with “If you were a horsefly, and I an old gray mare,/ I’d sit and let you bite me, and never move a hair,/ ’Cause that’s how much I love you …”

I don’t know if the song was ever recorded, and I didn’t bother to look it up because that’s not what is worth remembering. I like remembering it because it was a song my dad sang. It’s a pretty silly song, but you know what? The meaning of the words is sort of cool.

The simple verses imply that, no matter what we do in life, there are people who love us unconditionally. They’d do anything for us. They’d spend a whole nickel “all for you, baby.” I truly believe that my dad would do everything in his power to make people around him feel good. And that was one of the great lessons he taught me.

In these inflationary times, a nickel isn’t worth very much. Yogi Berra once said, “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” referring to its loss of value. But when I was a kid, a nickel was still pretty valuable. If you had a nickel to spend at Makoski’s Store on the west side of Oconto Falls, you could buy quite a trove of candy. So when Dad would sing that song about spending a whole nickel on candy and giving it all to me, I thought that was pretty special.

Even if the song is silly and not in the least relevant anymore, I still like the sentiment, don’t you? It’s not the spending of money that’s important, it’s the intent – the “why” of the spending, the spirit of the gift. I like to think that there are people who still feel that way.

If I had a nickel, you know what I would do?

Roger VanHaren can be reached at rjmavh@gmail.com.