Column: What We Choose to Treasure
By Icy Frantz
A few weeks ago, I picked up some personal items I had lent to the Historical Society for an exhibition entitled, “History is Personal.” I do not remember exactly what I was asked to provide, but it had to do with something that I held dear, something that told a part of my story and something that I considered treasure. Although, I considered a few different items, ultimately, I chose a collection of rocks over my great Grandmother’s hurricane lamps and an old wooden squash racquet circa 1980. Now, these rocks aren’t just any old rocks, I wouldn’t want you to think I am off my rocker, but rather a collection of rocks that I have amassed over the course of my life. These rocks vary in size, and come from the far corners of the world. Some of them have been personally discovered by me, while others have been gifts from close friends. Maybe it’s because each rock tells a unique story, or because each one is in the shape of a heart, but either way, they have become treasure that I hold dearly.
My little collection got me thinking about treasure and value. From a child’s perspective, it’s difficult to think about treasure without imaging pirates, and hidden chests and X marks the spot. In fact, when our boys were little, one of our more successful birthday parties involved just that: a sunken chest and a map and a whole lot of testosterone with eye patches and shovels and eventually after much deliberation, a big container of gems and penny candy. To the boys, there was great value in the hunt and in the prize, and when the treasure was consumed and the party was over, the pirate accessories were left on the kitchen counter for months.
But from an older person’s perspective, treasure holds a different kind of value. Sometimes, there is a monetary value, but often the value has more to do with connection: connection to our family and friends, our memories and our past, and the way the treasure makes us feel.
When my father’s mother passed away, I desperately wanted something from her home, a place I had visited every spring break while growing up. My grandmother and her home were very formal, very. She dressed in a gown for dinner, we learned to play bridge in a card room, and visited with her in her bedroom every morning, where she had her breakfast on fine china served on a tray. And, although I complained at the time at the rigidity of her life and the seemingly molasses slow pace, I longed to still have a piece of it when she was gone. I wanted something from the den, where we spent an hour watching the news every evening. I wanted a finger bowl from the beautiful place settings on the dining room table. I wanted a baby pillow, dressed in finely pressed linens from her bed. Somehow, I knew that my life would never resemble hers, and I wanted a treasure that would help me remember and honor her and a by gone era.
I asked a friend the other day, “What do you treasure?” Her immediate response was, “My children and family and friends and good health.” Above anything material, we treasure the people we love and their well-being. And this alone is enough, and yet I pushed her. “Aside from all of that, isn’t their anything in your possession that you truly treasure?”
So, she told me about her charm bracelet. Like my rocks, she has collected charms for many years. She has a charm from every country she has visited. She has a charm for each of her children and for every big milestone. She has a charm for her passions: tennis and reading and gardening and for the schools that she attended and a few representing some of her favorite food and drink.
“In essence, my bracelet tells the story of my life. It’s all right here.”
And treasure can do just that, honor a loved one or represent a life.
Digging a little deeper, I asked my husband about his treasure.
“Our family.” Good answer, but I pushed for more. “If you had ten minutes to evacuate our home, what would you grab?”
Without hesitation he answered,
“Our photo albums.”
Irreplaceable documentation of our life together and a treasure that always produces smiles and makes us think, wow, that really did happen. As life goes by, it is easy to forget, and losing ourselves in a photo album is always a good reminder that life is full of treasures.
When our daughter was a baby she was given many gifts. There were rattles, and cute onesies and a whole lot of cozy stuffed animals. As she grew, one gift seemed to trump all others. Cat, as we called it because it was a cat, pink and soft and pliable. She slept with Cat at night and dragged it around with her during the day. Looking back in those treasured albums, it is hard to find a picture of our daughter without Cat close at hand. Over time, Cat got pretty beat up, but it didn’t seem to matter. The dirtier and grungier Cat got, the more beloved it became. Then one fated day, Cat was left behind on a trip. There were tears and frantic calls and Google searches to find a Cat replacement, but to no avail. Cat was never found.
Much like the Velveteen Rabbit, what began as a simple gift among many, became treasured and beloved. And, sometimes that is the way with treasure, the value is only understood with the passage of time.
Much of treasure is personal. My rocks might seem inconsequential to others and yet, they sit upon my dresser and greet me every morning. And wherever we go, I search for ones to add to my collection and then I carefully wrap them up, like one would protect their finest jewelry, and bring them home. I am reminded that “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
The other night, I attended the Glenville Volunteer Fire Company event which honored two of our community’s most treasured residents, Peter and Bea Crumbine with the David N. Theis Award. Peter and Bea are known by most for their generous commitment to our town, their wisdom and their grace. I was struck by the words presented by one of the speakers.
Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro.
This sounds so beautiful in Italian and translates roughly to:
who finds a friend finds treasure
On that note, Cat and rocks and sunken chests aside, our most valuable treasure is found in the people around us, and for that reason alone, our lives are very rich.