Sunday, September 18, 2011

Memories Treasured

I treasure a few, health, and friends.  I treasure things that are important to me and provide for a better life for those around me. 

Not being a really sentimental person, I treasure very few materialist things.  If you have been to my home you know that I don't have a lot of stuff.  Not too many "trinkets" or shelves of stuff I just don't keep it around. 

While cleaning today I was reminded of some things that I treasure not because of their value but because they helped shaped who I am and appreciate what I have.  I smile every time I pass my spare room and see my Great Aunt Eileen's mystery jar, the photo of me and Grandpa Rudy dancing at my wedding, and a Raphael bracelet the great Canadian author Nora Keeling gave to me.

In every girl's life comes "that boy".  The boy that makes you feel like you are actually a girl, could possible have a boyfriend, and that you are not just the tough tomboy you have portrayed to the world for 16 years. "That boy" for me was a friend of my brothers who I met on my front lawn, March 1986.  I just thought he was the greatest thing ever.  After a fun March Break together the boy left London to go back to school in Lakefield, Ontario.  He wrote me a letter everyday and I cherished all his witty words and reflections on private school life. (I still have all the letters)  When he returned to London in May after his school year was complete, we resumed hanging out together.  One fun filled afternoon he took me to meet his mom, Nora Keeling who was eccentric, worldly, and so interesting to talk to.  She had lived in France, was a teacher, loved cats and smoked like a chimney. She was a published writer of short stories and articles and I ate up every word she spoke. 

At the end of our afternoon she handed me two gifts.  One was a signed manuscript of a short story she had written and the other was a small box with a bracelet in it.  She informed me that it was made by a Canadian artist in Toronto named Raphael and I wore it with pride.  It had the most interesting blue stone surrounded by a brass frame and clasp.  I had never been given any sort of gift such as this and long after "that boy" was out of my life I realized the value of the bracelet.  It represented that time in my life when I started to become confident, make better choices, and realize anything was possible for me. 

I left for Paris, France that summer and before I left I called Nora to share in my excitement.  She asked me to her house and gave me some books, letters and even some French Francs to take with me.  She asked that I visit some of her friends and drop letters off for her.  I remember how proud I was in Paris calling her friends and having tea with them to hear their stories of writing, Nora and life in France.  Nora died in 2008 and I never had the chance to reconnect with her and tell her that I now have a big collection of Raphael jewelry that I have enjoyed collecting since that lunch in 1986.  I wish I could share with her how much I appreciate that bracelet, how it made me feel, and what that thoughtful gesture did for this tomboy. 

I love photos.  I was a Creative Memory consultant for many years and enjoy making scrapbooks and preserving photos.  We have a lot of photos in our house and many scrapbooks of events, people and trips.  The one photo on my shelf that I adore is one of me and my grandpa dancing at my wedding in 1993.

The picture reminds me of where our family has come from.  It represents the guts it took my grandpa to get to Canada from Germany, the struggle he and my grandma had raising a family through the depression, and the years of joy they provided to all their grandchildren at their amazing property in Whitby, Ontario. 

He was so handsome that day in his grey suit and I giggle knowing that my grandma Hetty would have made him make sure his tie was straight and hankie was folded just right.  I am so happy that I have a video from our wedding so that I can hear all my grandparent's voices long after they have passed on and re watch me and my grandpa dancing a waltz.

My last treasure is a bit of a mystery.  It sat on a kitchen shelf in Tilden Lake, Ontario for many years at my Aunt Eileen's cabin.  My Aunt Eileen was my Grandpa Elliot's sister and to me, lived a fascinating life.  She worked for CP rail and had this property north of North Bay, Ontario where she built a humble cabin.  Four walls, a roof, and it was the greatest place on earth.  It did not have a road to it so you had to boat into the property.  You can imagine as the kid how cool that was.  We travelled to the cottage each summer and spent many long weekends there with my Aunt and her friends.  Eventually, my mom and her sisters got ownership of the cottage and built a road. 

The cottage had 2 bedrooms, a washroom (no running water), a kitchen (with running water that you had to hook up each year) and a family room.  No phone, 1 channel on the TV and the main mode of communication was the radio.  It is the place where my cousins and I all learned to play Euchre, Scrabble, cribbage and do crossword puzzles.  It was the place where you went annually with your friends to chill out, where I got engaged, knee boarded for the first time and saw my first bear. 

The place was full of souvenirs from my aunt's travels and work adventures.  It was adorned with wool blankets, CP train lights, a hat from Greece and on one shelf in the kitchen was this brown jar with the words PARIS FRANCE on it.  You would have no idea what it was until you touched it as it just looked like a souvenir.  Once you popped the top up, you noticed several small pipes to hold something.  Every time I arrived at the cottage, I would take the jar off the shelf and pull the top up and down to see if it still worked and I always hoped to find something in it, I never did.  I often fantasized over it's origin.  Who gave it to my aunt?  Did she travel to Paris and bring it back?  Was it for cigarettes? 

When my family eventually had to sell the cabin (It needed to be rebuilt and get a septic system) my mom asked if there was anything I wish to have and I told her about the brown jar.  She wasn't even sure she knew what I was talking about but when they returned from clearing the cottage out, she had it for me wrapped in paper towel and ready to resume it's mysterious life at my house.

I would not run back into a burning house to retrieve these items because I am already grateful for their memories that I treasure. 

What do you treasure?