My six-year-old daughter has her treasures.
A pipe remnant from her father’s custom wind chime building, a drawing of her deceased cat, a rock, a scrap of fabric, a stuffed animal, a pipe cleaner, a necklace, a broken shell and the list goes on.
“Do you have any treasures?” She asks me.
The first time she asked, I was unprepared, “Yes,” I said assuming I must.
She tilted her head and smiled, “Then where are they?”
The next time the subject came up, as I cradled a tulip-shaped milk glass vase in my hands, I said, “this is one of my treasures, and the light blue bowl on my nightstand, and my little turtle.”
The bowl as purchased at the Ferry Building in San Francisco the day I walked the three miles from Benioff Children’s Hospital during a break from staying bedside when my son was admitted. The turtle is a small, shiny, bejeweled looking thing given to me by his inpatient case manager. I have had to steal it back from my children.
“And any of your jewelry?” my nine-year-old daughter asks, her smirk tilting to one side.
“Yes…anything your father gave me.”
“Like your wedding ring and your engagement ring. Did he give you that pearl ring, too?”
She pointed knowingly to the four-month-old, chubby-cheeked daughter, “that’s the one Stella is going to get.”
There are other treasures in our home.
A baby grand piano purchased from the consignment store that is now Miss Potts Attic. New coupe glasses. Libbey Gold Autumn Leaves high ball glasses. My Currier and Ives dishes.
Outdoors, the treasures are more fleeting.
Sweet peas my six-year-old and I planted. Red and white amarillas from my mother. Purple irises transplanted from our last home before we moved.
My dahlias were a treasure. Bought as little plants from Kelley Flower Farm, I separated tubers, washed in a partial bleach solution and carefully stored for spring planting before we moved to this home. I thought I could keep them in the ground over winter. I thought California winters might be mild enough. As only one started up through the ground and grew taller, I took the shovel to dig and investigate what happened to the rest. They were gone.
There was no sign of gophers. I assume they rotted over winter and went back into the earth from whence they came.
All treasures are this way, in a way, fleeting.
The very greatest treasures are the ones we cannot hold so tightly: my growing four-year-old who will no longer suffer himself to be snuggled and kissed, a breeze in the warm spring sunshine, the coy words from my eldest as she tried to share without revealing secrets about my Mother’s Day gift, the words I quote from “Lord of the Rings” to my husband as a way of telling him I love him.
This is the season in which we might consider our treasures more than usual. Do we love our home? Do we take the time to care for it as an act of love? Do we surround ourselves with those inanimate objects that, for whatever reason, spark joy? We have been enclosed long enough within these walls. Let them be ornamented with things that cause us to pause, remember, and cherish, even if we do not have anyone with whom we can share them.
And relationships? There is something unnatural about social distancing and wearing face masks. It blocks something we are so inclined to do. We hug as a greeting to one another. Sympathy prompts a hand on the shoulder. Children beg to be held.
In a well-known study, rhesus monkeys would rather receive physical comfort with a terry-cloth “mother” than eat.
We continue to comply with the public health order and social distancing, but it is becoming more and more apparent that these things are our treasures: the touch, the smile, the kind word and sympathetic look as we unconsciously read each other’s emotions while sitting across the coffee shop table.
Such treasures are fleeting.
But like all beautiful things, the thing that is beautiful is delighted in for its own sake. Maybe, when this season is over, no matter how the world has changed, we’ll delight in it a little more.