Indiana Jones had the Ark of the Covenant. Darth Vader blew up a world in search of the Death Star plans. But all of it quailed in the face of the latest discovery.
Heather and her siblings, at long last, had uncovered G-ma’s Cow Pitcher.
“And now the fight begins,” her sister Jaimee joked, to the laughter of the room.
For the uninitiated, the Cow Pitcher is not a fastball-hurling Guernsey. Had we found that, we would have had an immediate obligation to send it to the Colorado Rockies. (Hey, their rotation can use all the help it can get.) This rather, was the unforgettable cow-shaped milk pitcher of Heather’s Grandma Marilyn – known eternally as “G-ma” – that she frequently wielded over the cereal bowl of each grandchild with a flourish and a call of “MooOOOooo!”
As the playful banter began, Marilyn herself chuckled and smiled. Another memory was about to find a home.
Only 3,207 more to go.
Marilyn, you see, is moving. That’s always a fun exercise to begin with. (As Mark Twain may not have said, “Two moves equal one fire.”) And it gets even more interesting when you’re moving into a smaller, simpler place and need to clear out a lot of stuff – not to an attic, a basement, or a garage, but to a new keeper, if it’s worth keeping at all.
And so, it slowly passed before us all. An endless stream of photo albums and teddy bears. A mysterious case – “is this a sewing machine?” – that turned out to be an old slide projector. Books upon books upon books, from longtime classics to movie novelizations.
It looked like we were in the middle of the world’s most chaotic flea market. But it felt like we were in the midst of gold and diamonds, decades of stories and memories that had taken on a physical form.
Better yet, we still had the best treasure of all.
I’ve written before in this space about the power of stories, how they inspire us, comfort us, bind the universe togeth … no wait, that’s Obi-Wan Kenobi talking about the Force. But you get the idea: stories are an essential part of what makes us human, one of the most precious things we possess.
But there is something more precious than any story.
Namely, the storyteller.
Memories are made of people. Stories begin with them. We walk past libraries every day, live with anthologies, work alongside chapters that we never knew existed. And most of the time, we barely open the cover.
We only realize how little we’ve read until the storyteller is gone. And there’s always so much more to find.
I lost a grandmother at 93 and a cousin at 21. I talked to both of them frequently. And yet, after they were gone, there were still questions I wished I’d asked, stories I wished I’d heard, thoughts I wished we’d exchanged.
That’s one reason we value the “stuff,” I suppose. It evokes the memories long after the memory maker is gone.
But getting to evoke them in her presence – that’s beyond price.
Heather and I wound up with the photo albums, to scan and share. Her brother Brad got to keep the Cow Pitcher – and miraculously, no concussions were involved. All of us wound up with a few books. OK, a lot of books.
And all of us got to keep Marilyn. That’s as cool as a Cow Pitcher jumping over the moon. Or is that “over the mooOOOoon?”
After all, you’ve got to milk these things.