Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the recent abundance of “treasure shows” on TV the last year or two. A&E’s “Storage Wars”, The History Channels “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars”, TruTv’s “Hardcore Pawn” and not to be left out PBS’s “Antique’s Road show”, which preluded everyone else’s show by starting out in 1997. I’m sure that there are others that I’ve left out, but I’ll focus on the theme of these few. The basic premise of each show (in this humble man’s opinion) is that the stars of their shows come across odd stuff, collectibles and other hard to find items through either customers coming into their stores, buying storage units that have gone delinquent, or go out and scrounge around the country side looking for things to buy for their store. The viewers are drawn in when the stars perhaps find something of value and intrigue. Then the stars have to negotiate a reasonable buying price from, sometimes, reluctant sellers so they can buy it and then resell it to one of their customers at a good profit. It’s “Commercialism 101” and I can watch hours of it. I especially enjoy American Pickers and Pawn Stars, with a tip of the hat to Mike and Frank of American Pickers since they’re from Iowa and seem like nice, fun loving guys (just like this forty-five year old Iowan). I’ve wondered why others, like myself are so drawn to this theme. Is it that each one of us has a bit of “treasure hunter” living in us? A kind of treasure hunter that doesn’t have to travel to far away countries like Indiana Jones, fighting tribes of spear chucking locals (or worse yet…machine gun toting locals who are working in cahoots with the Nazis?) Maybe we all like the thrill of the chase towards the treasure, knowing that we’ll be snug in our beds that night instead of trying to sleep on a cot swatting at mosquitoes? I think that’s why flea markets and garage sales are so popular is that treasure is in the eye of the beholder.
A couplea years ago my parents moved off of the family farm where they had collected and stored stuff for around forty years. For me…some was treasure and some was stuff that I just knew shouldn’t leave the family. For instance…what does a guy who lives in a city of over one hundred thousand do with an antique wheat scythe? Well…he takes it home and hangs it in his man-garage, and if he ever wants to play the part of the Grim Reaper for Halloween he’s readily equipped. That’s essentially what I did with around four pick up truck loads of old farm tools, old toys, sports equipment and the like…it’s treasure to me so it’s coming home. I have old baseball gloves from the 1950’s that my dad and his brother probably used, an old Boy Scout uniform that Dad wore, some military stuff from when Dad was based in Germany during the occupation of Germany after WWII, some old photos and miscellaneous stuff from Mom’s life mostly displayed in either my man garage or in a lawyers bookcase (which I jokingly refer to as the Ripley-Wagner Memorial Museum) in our family room. It’s probably not worth much monetarily but it’s a touchstone for me to my ancestors. I don’t “do” genealogy…it’s way too much like homework for this guy, and this morning I received a bunch of old photos (from the 1950’s and earlier) of our family and a tin cup that had been used by my Mom’s side of the family since…I don’t know when…forever? And it looks like it too…all dinged up and misshapen. It’s probably been used through the Great Depression, a World War and maybe even the Korean War…holding well water that was hand pumped up to thirsty people in rural western Illinois like my uncles, my aunt, my Mom, my grandparents, maybe great grandparents and probably thirsty neighbors as well. I like it and it’s going into my museum.
There’s way too much other “bric-a-brac” for me to mention that has touched me in a sentimental way, though recently another one has come across my path that I can’t place in my “bookcase of memories” though it’s one of my favorites. Allow me to explain, my Dad is in a nursing home. He has a laundry list of health issues. Life is winding down for him, slowly and uncomfortably. He has Alzheimer’s as well. Simply put, it tears at me to see my father who loves me, provided for me as a child, loves my wife and our children, has been a loving husband to my Mother for 55+ years, and has mentored me in so many ways…dying before my eyes. I love him and thank God for the time that we have had these last five years to share. A month or so ago I sat close to him, as he lie in bed in his dimly lit room, and asked him if he ever thought about Heaven. His reply “I think about it a lot.” I told him “it’s okay Dad…if you want to go…to Heaven. You could see Uncle John and Grandma….you don’t have to stick around here for me, Mom (and my brothers)…you can go. It’ll be okay.” I’ll admit it was the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to say, but I felt that it needed to be said, and it took me a while to get it out…between the tears and crying…but it came out and Dad…seeing that I was having trouble reached out and held my hand…comforting me as I was trying to comfort him. He was crying too and said “but I’ll miss you guys too much.”
Love…it’s what I treasure.