Finding Treasure

After a drenching winter, one in which the dry reservoirs filled and the wood pile disappeared and the water saturated everything, wreaking havoc on local roads and local plans, the sun emerges from his hiding place. He makes a hesitant appearance in early March, and, upon receiving a hero’s welcome, a greeting reserved for a long-lost friend, he grows in strength and power.

We bask in the warmth, in the sudden beauty of bright afternoons. Eager to encourage my girl outside after weeks of staying in, I add a bounce to my step and a lilt to my voice.

“Hey, Katie!” I say as she sits, painting, at the kitchen table. “Why don’t we go on a treasure hunt?”

She responds with enthusiasm, so we pack up the paints and the brushes and the paper, gather shoes and sunglasses and her baby sister. I hand her a plastic grocery sack (itself a treasure, now that the stores are no longer allowed to provide them), and out we go.

“What treasure, Mama?” sheasks, as we traipse down our driveway, and it is not lost on me, this tremendous responsibility, this incredible privilege: she looks to me to define, by word and by deed, what has value and what does not. I point to a pinecone lying among last year’s old leaves and this year’s new weeds. She scoops it up – “Prickly!” – and three more after it in rapid succession. It’s as she’s adding a fourth, a bristly thing stripped of its scales and smooshed flat by a hard life under tire treads, that I decide some redirection might be warranted. And so I point out an ancient golf ball half-covered in mud, a smooth white rock, a bit of moss. They make their way into the bag, along with handfuls of pine needles and scoops of driveway gravel and a double fistful of dirt, for good measure.We walk down to the bottom of our property and back up again, a long trek for short legs, and when we make it home, her bag is full. Later, after dinner, she and Jonathan sit at the kitchen table. He pulls things out, one by one, and they examine and enjoy her collected wonders together.

A few days later, she retrieves another bag from the pantry. She brings it to me with her shoes. “Another treasure hunt, Mama,” she says, matter-of-fact, and who am I to discourage that?

We go outside. She knows now what she wants in her bag and gathers it on her own, without prompting, without help.I embark on a treasure hunt of my own. With Abby on my hip, I cannot operate my DSLR, so I settle for what I can capture with the camera on my phone. The vibrant life of green growth. The joy of a daffodil. The delicate white of an almond bud.

Katie calls to me from across the yard, holding up a pinecone.

“Look, Mama! I find a treasure!”

The sun lights her features, and I gaze at her, my big, little girl with her hair wild around her face. I smile.

“Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”

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