My father kept a treasure chest on the top shelf of his closet in my childhood home. It was a small trunk the size of a shoebox and inside were bibelots and baubles he’d collected over the course of his life — unusual coins, arrowheads from his youth, a pocket-watch, miniature framed portraits, medals from his time in the military, opal-studded stick pins too hazardous for our small fingers, and — my favorite — a tiny silver jumping jack whose arms and legs jutted out if you tugged the pull string on its underside. He’d bring down the treasure chest with metered sparing so as to ensure it never lost its mystique, and we’d pore over the memorabilia, arguing over who got the jumping jack first. These novelties felt otherworldly, other-generational. I think now of the childhood keepsakes I might bequeath my children — American Girl dolls, Barbies, that enormous shopping bag filled with Beanie Babies, my collections of yellowing Baby Sitter’s Club books and Nancy Drews — and all lack the quaint luster and hefty redolence of my father’s treasures. But then again —
In my bedside drawer: a rosary from my grandfather on my First Communion and a thick gold cross pendant with my great Aunt Jennie’s name and the date of her Confirmation — relics of faith that have accompanied me at the births of my both of my children. A vintage tortoise barrette that reads ELAINE in fading gold script — my mother’s first name. On my bedside table, a blown glass Magpie figurine from a college girlfriend, a small limoges trinket box from my grandmother. Elsewhere in the apartment, the rabbit’s foot Mr. Magpie inherited from his father that nearly tore my heart out of my body; a traditional French enameled house placard numbered 18, Mr. Magpie’s jersey number as a high school baseball star; portfolios of treasured letters and prayer cards and photographs. The butterfly-embroidered cardigan that belonged to my grandma; the boater hat that belonged to my dapper grandad. A strange obelisk-shaped marble bookmark that once belonged to my father-in-law. A framed recipe for pierogis in the old-fashioned hand of Mr. Magpie’s grandmother.
The other day, I shared some good news with my sister, and I caught her wiping away happy tears on my behalf.
It is good to be loved, I thought, my heart in my throat.
Our apartment, then: a menagerie of artifacts of love. I think about this now and my father’s treasure chest sits in a different light. The arrowheads — always, I suddenly remember, accompanied by stories of my father’s adventures and misadventures with his brother, honey-sweet and golden through the lens of nostalgia. The stick pins, the pocket watch: bagatelles and bequests from loving family members. Even the medals: love of country, love of brothers.
If you need a pick-me-up today, consider spending a few minutes looking through that drawer where you stuff photos and birth announcements, or that jewelry box filled with knickknacks, or that old hat box of letters. Because I sit here this morning and look around my apartment and realize I am surrounded by curios of kindness. I think:
It is good to be loved.
+This $120 side table is so good.
+Hand-embroidered sweaters for little ones — sweet gift for a new baby.
+Attractive and reasonably-priced swimming trunks for gents in great colors.
+Fun tiered white dress (the back!)
+I love a striped tee — and these are $12 and come in fantastic colors.
+A little gingham dress that looks like it’s straight out of the 1940s, in a good way. So winningly retro!
+How cute is this dog pillow for lost teeth?!
+Into the cropped exercise tank at the moment.