My favorite thing? The thing I would grab in the middle of the night if the house were burning down?
I set myself a few ground rules:
- it couldn’t be a person or a pet (of COURSE I would save those first from a burning house)
- it had to be something I could carry in my own hands (that leaves out the house, the barn, the giant maple tree in the yard, the view out my bedroom window, the ocean)
- it had to be a tangible thing (strike sunlight, the sound of the bamboo wind chime on a lazy Saturday, music, smiles, laughing with friends, the taste of a tomato pulled straight off the vine on a warm August day, the view from a summit, and the moment just before bed time, when there’s nothing left to do but lie down and rest)
Well, that eliminated a lot of options straight away.
I looked around the room. The camera was an obvious choice. Too obvious. Besides, as much as I love my camera (well, both of my cameras), I could buy a new one with the insurance money.
For a day, I seriously considered the one-handed gate latch on the main gate by the goat barn. Really, I love that thing. It’s made my life so much easier, when my hands have been full of hay or water buckets and I need to slip in and out of the gate quickly without letting curious goats escape.
I nearly settled on that, then remembered that it, too, could be easily replaced.
Next, naturally, I came to things that could never be precisely replaced because they were one-of-a-kind, either because they were acquired under such specific, unrepeatable circumstances, or given to me by people who were no longer around to give.
The last birthday gift my mother gave me: a beautiful whale-bone carving she bought on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Alaska.
The mah jong set my grandmother used for years and that I played with as a child.
Yellowed photographs of great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, taken before the digital age and stored in shoe boxes and other flammable containers.
The cream and egg white whipper from M’s family; irreplaceable, unique, and perfectly suited to the job.
Little scraps of paper, notes, and poems that H has left me over the years.
A little plastic triangular-shaped ring that was the first thing that H held in her little baby hand.
Books. Books. Books. Inscribed, worn out, written in, dog-eared, reread, stained, carried everywhere.
The hunk of rock brought back from the Dolomites, the seashells, the river rocks, the nests, the colorful leaves, the branches-turned-walking sticks from a hundred hikes.
Uh oh. That’s getting to be a long list.
Listen, Rebecca, you have just bare minutes to grab something before the smoke and flames overwhelm you. What will you take?
I cheated a bit. Not one thing, but two.
A leather-bound, letter-press-printed, signed book of poetry, by my favorite poet, containing some of my favorite poems, including this one. A gift from M, when I was in grad school, and we could not afford such luxuries. But for poetry and love, you make some exceptions.
And, easily, because it’s on my hand already, the gold band on my left ring finger — made by a jeweler in Portsmouth, NH, who understood exactly how simple a ring I wanted; put on my finger in a round room in Bergen, Norway, by my sweetheart; worn nearly every day since, for going on twenty years; bearing the scars, scratches, and nicks that make up a life, including the time it had to be cut off my swelling finger after I broke my arm 10 days after H was born.
All else can be replaced.