As a Senior Move Manager, I see all sorts of client treasures, so it has made me think about my own l treasures as well. If you went to my home, you probably would not notice my treasures, even though they are in plain view. That’s because they look ordinary. They don’t have a lot of material value. They’re my treasures because they have special meaning to me.
My first treasure is a common blue and white mug — a souvenir from a trip to the Bahamas with my friend Karen when we were both single. For years, the mug had no special meaning; I kept it on my desk to hold pens. Eight years later, at 36, Karen was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. She died at 38. During this same time period, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, except 21 years later, I am alive and well. It seems so arbitrary; it is hard to make sense of it. So over time, that ordinary blue has taken on new importance. It reminds me of Karen, yes, but even more, it reminds me how lucky I am. I went on to raise a family, to start a business, to help found an industry. That’s one thing about personal treasures. They may not start out as a treasure; they can evolve.
Another one of my personal treasures is a large, framed needlepoint that hangs above my desk. My mother did the needlepoint as a girl in Hungary. She told me how they gathered together to embroider, and one person would read aloud while the others sewed. She ran out of red in the final corner and substituted pink. I love this imperfection. When I graduated from college, my mother had the needlepoint framed and presented it to me as a graduation gift, and that’s when it became a personal treasure. My mother came to America when she was 12, and was put back a grade so she could learn English. When she was 17, she caught TB and spent a year in a sanitarium. By the time she was released, she was two years older than her classmates and never returned to high school. Growing up, I knew my mother never went to college, but I was in my twenties when I realized she had never finished high school. Her brother, my uncle, went to college and became a physician.
Like many baby boomers, I grew up knowing I was expected to go to college. But for my mother, it was more than an expectation, it was a need. I knew how much it bothered my mother that she did not have an education, and how much pleasure she took from my academic successes. From the time I was in junior high, I asked her to read every novel I loved so we could discuss it together. Over the years, we shared dozens of books we laughed and cried over. If in part she lived thru me, I didn’t mind; I enjoyed her support and was happy to give her pleasure. So when my mother unwrapped the needlepoint, I knew it was the perfect gift. It was our graduation gift, hers and mine together.
As I think about my personal treasures, I realize that I have neglected something important. They are personal treasures, it’s true, but I have kept their meaning personal and private too; I haven’t shared their story. That’s why I am sharing it with you now, and why I will share it with my children. Perhaps that is the real value of personal treasures — the story behind them that only you can share. Because when all is said and done, passing on who you are is the most important legacy you have.
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