I have a little shelf that holds my treasures.
No one would think twice about the items on this shelf: a Lego figure of a famous Harry Potter character, a piece of wood, a cross, and a card. To the outsider they would seem rather ordinary. But to me? Well they are things I treasure; they are pieces of me – the good, the bad, the things that make up a life.
The cross was given to me two years ago by a young man who worked with me at the farm. He was a gay Christian and needed a place to stay for a week. As a thank you he bought me the cross as a gift and is a reminder of Jesus’ command to love one another regardless of politics, religion, race, gender, or sex.
The Lego character is that of Professor Snape. After my divorce my children and I discovered the Harry Potter movies and watched them straight in a row. The moment Harry dropped Snape’s tear into the pensieve and the true measure of his love for Lilly was revealed, I fell in love. Professor Snape epitomizes that unconditional love and devotion we all seek yet seems an impossibility.
I’m not sure why I love the piece of wood so much. Perhaps because it’s so random. It will always remind me of the constant surprises involved in raising children and the joy in the real and unscripted that can only be found in the company of those small creatures.
The card is from the man, my therapist, who guided me through that first year after my divorce and helped me sift through all of the broken pieces of myself. It came to me two years after our last meeting and is the confirmation of what I felt but never said. In the hours that unfolded through the weeks of one year, feelings were birthed. Though for obvious reasons those feelings will never be explored. They will simply remain on my shelf, a reminder that there was once a man who cared for me.
The little wooden box was given to me by a dearly beloved cousin the day I left VA eighteen years ago. Inside this box contains a past I cannot let go of yet, at least not entirely.
Inside is a tiny, painted, wooden duck. It once was packed in a small blue chest with tiny, painted, Easter eggs and bunnies, along with Easter grass. It was a gift I sent to the boy, who would become my husband and ultimately the great devastator of my life, when he was in the Navy and out to sea. I loved to love him then. I destroyed the rest of the figures and threw the chest away but could not bring myself to destroy this last remaining one…at least not yet.
The next treasures are the checker pieces from the original checker/backgammon board game my ex-husband and I played on. Nights we spent sitting criss-cross on the bed drinking wine and discussing my uncanny ability to always triumph in backgammon. Eventually our first-born son took control of the game when he was a toddler and the pieces became his bread. They are a reminder of soft baby flesh and sweet imaginations.
Then there is a fragment of a Willow Tree figurine my mother gave me after my first son was born.
I will always believe there was potential for my marriage, as painful as that is and perhaps delusional, if my husband had ever really wanted it. But he never did and it was not until the end of our marriage that I realized I had unknowingly held such a deep contempt-laced hatred for him for so very long. One night, years before he finally left, after I had a miscarriage, I threw this figurine to the ground breaking it into pieces. The only part that remained was the swaddled infant. I held onto it as a reminder of the baby I lost and that no matter what, I had to get her back; I had to have another child. I did have another child and she has been my heart for seven years.
This folded note is the last note in a treasure hunt l made for my sons to tell them they were going to have a baby sister. I placed it in the mail box of the house we were hoping to buy along with the ultra sound pictures. Sometimes I wonder if we had gotten the house could our marriage have been saved? This note is a reminder of the possibilities that will never be.
The next treasure is one I hate but cannot let go of. It is the second of two wedding rings. My first one meant more. I still wore it briefly after my divorce until one summer day while frolicking in the river, it was swallowed up. The second one belonged to a matching pair. It was given to me when my husband refinanced our house. It epitomizes greed, shallowness, and debauchery. Perhaps I keep it as a reminder of what can happen, how something beautiful can be tainted if not guarded.
The last treasure is my daughter’s hospital bracelet. She was the last one as I had made the decision to have the operation to ensure l could never have children again. She marked the ending of the happiest time of my life, a time when I was a mother to small children who looked to me for everything with complete love and trust. She was the closing of a chapter. But she was also the beginning. She was the beginning of my attempt to make her life better than my own, to do for her what I was unable to do for myself. To make sure she always felt loved.
On top of my shelf of treasures stands a doll I have had for fifteen years. When I first bought her, her head was loosely attached. Then it detached itself completely and I laid it by her feet. Eventually it disappeared entirely. What struck me about this doll is even though her dress was tattered and torn, one arm nothing more than a wire as if the very flesh had been torn from it, even though she was without a face or an identity, she was beautiful. And I could see myself in her. She is a reminder that though there is much about my life that is tattered and has been torn, though sometimes I feel like I am invisible – nothing more than a twisted wire for a head – I am so much more. I am beautiful.
So that is my space, my special, unassuming shelf that holds my secret treasures. Masquerading as knick-knacks and an odd piece of wood, these are the reminders of a life lived – my life.