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Treasures from the Past

March 3, 2004

It was a blustery weekend, and I ended up stormed in at the farm. Mom, seeking distraction from the storm raging outside, decided it was time to do some digging in the attic. We spent the better part of a day sitting in the attic doorway going through boxes of treasures. Each patchwork quilt, each crocheted doily, each embroidered dishtowel, each pretty dish had a story and sparked memories of a childhood or loved ones long gone. We laughed and sometimes fell silent as treasures evoked stories and memories both happy and sad.

And we were dismayed at the daunting task of sorting through all our earthly belongings, separating the treasure from the trash. Itís a project both Mom and I have set for ourselves. You see, neither of us ever learned to throw things away, and we are only slowly learning that itís OK to use things up. We both grew up with a love of pretty things, nice things, but knowing that if we ever did get something nice, we needed to hoard it, because we would never get another one. And so we savedótreasuredóeverything.

I also realized that the real treasures were the stories associated with the items Mom dug out, and those were the treasures that were going to be lost, so I asked her to write down the history of her treasures and put it with them. An antique dish is just something to sell on eBay if we kids donít know it was a wedding present or a gift from a favorite aunt, but, if we know the history, it becomes a treasure we will cherish. I guess Iíve always known that after a fashion. I have grown up with some of the stories, and some of them are even part mine. Mom has two dolls in her china cupboard. One is a valuable antique doll that belonged to some relative, I canít even remember which one. She means a lot to Mom, but means nothing to us kids beyond that she is precious to Mom. The other is a Japanese dancer in a kimono, brought from Japan by my uncle. As a child I adored her, and often handled her gently, admiring her graceful sculpted hands and beautiful gown. I remember in about third grade Mom permitted me to bring her to school, carefully (oh so carefully!) transported in a shoebox, for some international thing we were doing. I am sure I was the proudest kid in my class, and I believe I brought her back home without a single hair pulled loose from her dainty bun. She may not belong to me, but she is one of my treasures, and one of my sisters, who also loved her and often admired her, feels the same. The real treasures are the memories.

This weekend it was Momís turn to seek out her treasures while I cheered her on. I have told her she can do the same for me when I get into going through my own stuff. Itís an intimidating taskótoo much for one person to face alone without at least moral support. Even more so for her, because she has to deal with the treasures (and trash) from an entire family. Still, after this weekend, I canít help but be curious about what treasures Iíll find among my possessions!