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Homemade Treasure Hunts
by Jan Risher



My mother has many redeeming qualities.

Her sense of direction is not one of them.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that she panics when she's not sure where she's going. Navigating her way to a new place is an exhausting ordeal. Thankfully, my mom is a trooper and after years of following my dad's football teams around the whole of Mississippi, she learned to read and follow directions well.

I was in the car with her looking for the countless football fields and high schools. Somehow we never missed a kickoff.

In the years since, I've taken my share of wrong turns, but I've often found myself returning to those navigational skills I learned on Friday nights meandering through small Mississippi towns.

Even back then I responded to my mom's geographical powerlessness. I developed a love for maps and finding my way to and through places I've never been.

Funny, isn't it, that as much as we are like our parents, sometimes we are just the opposite? Logically it makes sense that even as children we sometimes learn to complement and balance rather than emulate.

My father's sense of adventure and my mother's near paralysis in finding her way both play a role in my joy of exploring. As a child I remember thinking that finding those football fields was kind of like looking for lost treasure. And I loved the hunt.

When we weren't off gallivanting and cheering for the boys in red and blue, I started creating my own treasure hunts. Dayna was my primary treasure hunt playmate. She was the youngest daughter of my grandmother's neighbor. A whopping four years older than me, she agreed to play with me anyway.

I was in awe of her near teenagerness. We made treasure hunts that the reality show producers of Survivor would envy. She would take the front yard of one house and I would take the backyard of the other house and we would give ourselves 45 minutes to get everything set up.

On tiny pieces of paper, we devised word clues, some requiring mirrors to decipher the backward letters. We stepped out paces to hide out clues. We dug spots for buried treasures and climbed trees to tape clues to specific leaves. I'll admit that I got much more excited about the whole thing than Dayna did (after all, she was four years older and way cooler).

For several years now I've organized a simple color treasure hunt for my 5-year-old daughter, Greer. Colored pieces of paper act as clues. For example, I give her a red piece as the first clue and she looks under or around all the red items in the room or area until she finds the next clue which is a different color and so on.

Yesterday, I made an alphabetical treasure hunt for Greer and our neighborhood kids. The first clue was "A" and they had to find something that started with "A" in order to find the second clue which was "C" and so on.

Greer enjoys the treasure hunts, but not nearly as much as I enjoy making them.

Some things skip a generation.

It's a good thing for me to remember that even though the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, it does indeed fall. Just like my mom and I have our different strengths, likes and interests, Greer is developing her own as well.

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Jan Risher is a mother, teacher and writer. She lives in Lafayette, Louisiana with her husband and two daughters. Her weekly column appears on Sundays in Lafayette's The Daily Advertiser.

E-mail Jan at this address.

For more stories by Jan Risher, visit these USADS pages:
Wings and Roots
Good News: Down Syndrome
Grandmotherís Front Porch


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