Thursday, July 20, 2006

One Man's Treasure

My bosses (they are husband and wife) have built a new house, and they are moving into it this week. I am helping them to unpack their offices. So, last night, Wayne and I go over to take some computer related stuff, and my boss starts talking about how some people really treasure their stuff and how some people can give away things that would seem very precious to them, heirlooms, etc.

He was telling us a story of a friend of his who sold all of his stuff to move to a smaller place. One of the things he sold was a big giant copper tea service -- the only item his grandmother was able to smuggle here after her survival from Auschwitz. Imagine selling something that was so very treasured in your family.

If you wanna see stuff, they've got stuff. Their stuff has stuff. They have hired professional movers, as they have some very expensive statues and artwork that needed to be moved carefully.

I didn't really think about what he was saying last night, until a fleeting moment today when I went to take a vase out of a box.

I was just putting out the office things, and as I went to lift the vase out of the box, I noticed it was broken. "Oh, our first casualty!" I exclaimed, quite sure that it wasn't much of a catastrophe--a simple vase with some silk flowers in it.

Turns out it was one of the last gifts that one of my boss's father has given to him before he died. The vase was already broken, but had been kept, broken side turned toward the wall, because it had sentimental value.

And yesterday, as I was moving an item in the old office, I found a tiny fake rubber mouse on the floor. I pointed it out to my other boss and she jumped for joy; picked up the tiny mouse and was so happy to have found it. It turns out it was the one and only treasured toy of a cat she had for years and years, and she could never find it after the cat had died.

So, among some very valuable items, some of their treasures are found among the things you'd least expect.

I think that is true for all of us. I have stuff that means a lot to me. Some of the items are pretty obvious treasures. Like my great grandmother's dishes that are over 100 years old, and displayed in my china cabinet in my dining room. Anyone can tell they are very old, and likely worth a bit of money. And it doesn't take long for me to tell you that these were given to my great grandmother, who was born in 1876, on the occasion of her wedding, and then passed to my Aunt Sadie, whom I loved dearly, who passed them on to me.

Its pretty cool that I knew and remember my great grandmother -- even for me to think about it, its pretty nifty I knew someone born in 1876.

I treasure a little silver pedestal dish that holds a cobalt blue bowl and silver spoon in it, because I remember my great grandmother slicing apples into it for me, and telling me that only real princesses ate apples with a silver spoon from a bowl.

I was 5; she was 93; I remember the color of her hair (the same color of my sister's hair now!) and the 'granny' shoes she wore. I remember how tall she was, and how fascinated I was by all the lines in her skin. She was the most beautiful person in the world to my 5 year old eyes.

There are other obvious treasures around my house - photo albums, and memory boxes, and gifts given to me or the girls for special occasions.

Some would be considered very unvaluable to anyone who picked them up -- the well worn pacifier that was Dakotah's as a baby, a copy of "The Monster at the End of this Book" that was read nightly for months; the "coming home" outfit that each girl came home in; a favourite stuffed animal of theirs; the box of love letters between Wayne and I during our courtship.

But its the not so obvious treasures I'm thinking about tonight - the little stuffed racoon that my father gave me the last Valentine's day he was alive, the lock of hair that is wrapped in a piece of gauze from Paige's 2nd night of most a treasured snippet of newborn hair; to me, fear, dread, and eventually triumph all wrapped into one; the ratty looking ivory dress that Dakotah wanted to wear every single day of her 3 year-0ld life, until I finally hid it because I couldn't look at it one more time; the picture of Dakotah that is taped in a thousand places, because it kept vigilant watch over Paige in her incubator during her first months of life; the "Big Sister" button that takes my breath away every time I see it because I remember calling Dakotah when Paige was born, and telling her the baby had arrived, and hearing the complete wonder in her voice as she whispered, "I have a baby sister?"

These things will not be treasures for anyone one unless their legacy is passed along with them; for it is the story, not the stuff that makes these priceless.

Some things will remain my treasures only as the telling of the story will steal the value of the treasure. Like the little box of teeth that Dakotah found when she was about eight years old. Thinking quickly, I told her that they were our dog, Oreo's teeth, so she wouldn't have a favorite childhood belief stolen from her for just one more day. Little did I know that this box of teeth would become her treasure to show her friends, to tell Oreo stories about, to wonder which tooth fell out first.

There will never be a time when she needs the real story of The Teeth. They are far more valuable to her now.

For Paige, she will never know that I spent so much money and time decorating her room and making it perfect just for her -- complete with all her beany baby ducks, and her big, big, BIG yellow duck that sleeps beside her, because a nursery was just too much to consider when I was pregnant with her.

Wayne doesn't need to know that I still catch my breath when I see him in a white button up shirt, because I remember him wearing one the night I met him, and I think of it every single time he does it now.

Or that even when I'm grumpy or aloof, or in a "not now" mood when we go to bed, that I never wake in the middle of the night without putting my hand on his shoulder and whispering "I love you" to his sleeping body.

Maybe he does know. And maybe its his treasure too.


Tara Marie said...

It is funny that you write this, because I'm am actually in the middle of going through 'stuff' in my own home,,,,a summer cleaning if you will! and it is so true, there are physical items that mean the world to me, like my great-grandmothers desk, still filled with her papers, because I dare not throw them out, and I just love opening the drawers and reading her notes and poems written on the yellowed pads.

I saw your entry on my blog about 'The Catcher in the Rye'....think about the quote I pulled, it seems like when we hold on to 'things' that have meaning, we are being 'The Catchers in the Rye' because we don't want to story to fade away, so if we have a physical item from that precious moment, we can carry it forward with us through our life span and the life span of our children and their children.

Beautiful post are truly an amazing woman and an incredible writer...I can envision Wayne in a white shirt and I see very clearly that precious lock of hair!

Peace and love,

mum2brady said...

Aw Betsy - I wish I could write like you! You are so right about EVERYTHING :) I love your treasures, and like you, I have many that have no meaning to anyone else, but me, and to me, they are the greatest treasures!!! Thanks for sharing and touching my heart!

mum2brady said...

Betsy - you are truly an amazing writer. I can see all your treasures in my mind - what a pictures you paint. I, too, have drawers and boxes full of treasures that mean more to me than money ever could. And - I have treasures tucked away in my mind as well, and your post reminds me I should write them down, before they are memories lost... Thanks for touching my heart!

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