Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Daddy's Treasure Chest

When my little brother and I were youngin's,  Daddy had a cedar box he brought home from the Smokies as a souvenir.  He always called it his treasure box and we imagined it was filled with family trophies and riches handed down through the generations.  We would beg to see into it and occasionally Daddy would pull out a sampling of treasures.  They were amazing.

About 15 years ago, just before Christmas, Daddy sat on the floor down in Tennessee where he and Mama had retired, got out his treasure chest and two small boxes - the ones you get checks in when you order them.  My Mama asked him what he was doing and he told her it was time brother Mike and I had treasure chests of our own.

He sat for hours going through his treasures and picking things to put in each box.  As often as possible he would place the same things in each box.  Occasionally he would give each of us a particular treasure all our own and not duplicated in the other's box.  When they were full he put the lids on and wrapped a rubber band around each.

On Christmas morning, Daddy sat down on the floor at my brother's home and called for us to sit with him.  He gave us each a box  We took off the rubber bands with great curiosity.  Daddy did not shop and did not buy presents.

Mike and I giggled and shouted with remembered joy as we saw the wonderful treasures in the boxes.  Our childhood pleasures of seeing Daddy's treasure chest rushed back and we were 8 years old again as we pulled out old Zippo lighters that did not work, matchbooks from restaurants long closed, broken watches, old pennys, Mercury dimes, a bullet from a 22, screws, bolts and nuts he had absentmindedly carried home in his pants pockets over 30 years of working in a factory.  There were brass curtain rings that had found their way to his chest and that looked so much like pirate's earrings that we both clipped them on our ears (bad idea, they clipped hard enough to hold curtains, you know).  We cried and laughed for about half an hour as we looked, showed everyone what was in our treasure boxes and compared booty.

Daddy was passing on a memory to his sons in the form of junk from an old cedar box.  Junk that was amazing treasure to little boys, even greater treasure because my Daddy remembered our delight, those private moments that he shared with us as we looked into his treasure chest with wonderment.

We each later bought a box to put just those treasures in.  Funny thing was, we each already had a "treasure chest" of our own and had showed ours to our children.

When my Daddy died, I bought a beautiful oval Shaker box, made of cedar and our family filled it with "treasures", the top of a Skoal snuff box with "I love you, Pappy" from my nephew, Masonic pins, love notes, favorite crayons, pictures... yes, a broken Zippo lighter. 

Even when Daddy was dying of cancer, when asked, he would say "I'm fine" and for years we joked he would have that on his flowers when he died.  I cut an oval piece of paper to fit inside the lid of the Shaker box and as each family member put their "treasure" in I would show them the inside of the lid that said...

"I'm fine".  Each chuckled softly in their turn.  I placed the box in his hands as I said goodbye to Daddy for the last time.  It lays there today, buried with him, a fit memorial to a good Daddy.

Jimmie's boy

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