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ONE MAN’S TREASURE
by Marta Martin




Ken Farmer from the Antiques Road Show is coming here soon. I’ve always enjoyed the element of surprise the show generates. Some folks bring in some neat stuff only to learn it’s a heap of junk, and still others come to find that their old stuff is worth a bit of money. Me, I don’t know anything about any of it.

I think it is quite interesting that you are charged admission and then fifteen dollars per item for appraisal. Hmmm . . . I’m not sure I like the sound of that. I’m thinking Ken gets to look at all this nice stuff, and all of this gets filmed for the show--wait a minute. Ken, you want to look at my junk; then maybe you should pay me.

Of course, there is that nagging question: What would I bring? Last time I took a good look around, everything I owned was very lovingly worn. Emphasis on the very. Hand me downs, cast-offs--clean and presentable, not very valuable.

Well, there is that old tabletop grandfather clock. Then I remember that my son knocked it off my credenza; and even though the nice man from Nitro said he fixed it, it has never chimed again. Scratch that. My mother’s cedar chest sits in my bedroom still holding old blankets that smell like mothballs. Do you think those little places where the dog chewed it would lessen its value? Probably. I did have that nice old vase but someone in my house under the age of twelve took a baseball bat to it.

Fact is, I don’t have very much. My folks never owned their own home. My dad worked two jobs, my mom helping him to put three kids through school. The most valuable things my folks gave me I hold in my heart and in my recipe box. They’re intangible and not for sale.

I smile that night in my sleep as I dream of a visit with Mr. Farmer in early October at the LaBelle Theatre in South Charleston, West Virginia. What would he think of my most treasured possessions?

“It’s a recipe card,” he says, holding it disdainfully by one corner.

“It’s not just a card, Ken.” I nudge him. “That's my momma’s apple strudel recipe. Every Serbian woman on the south side of Pittsburgh in the 1960s would have killed to have it.”

“And this rag?”

“Why, that’s Goggy!”

“Do tell.”

“Well, I couldn’t say 'doggy' when I was a kid. It’s my blankey! He went all the way through college with me, Ken.”

“And it looks like it,” he says, his eyes large. “Anything else?”

“There’s this.” I hand him the clear glass teddy bear frame with a lock of hair inside, bound by a tiny baby blue ribbon.

“Someone famous, I presume?”

“Not yet. That’s from my son’s first haircut. Now, here’s the thing—he was almost five! Hair down to his shoulders! It was beautiful, and I wouldn’t cut it until he said so.”

“Really.” (Annoyed again.) “Whatever would make him want to cut his hair?” (Eyes rolling.)

“Couldn’t get his football helmet on!” I slap Ken on the arm like an old friend.

“Of course.” He nods, weary of my visit.

“This is the tooth of an animal,” he says as he holds Zeus’s puppy tooth in his hand as though it came from the litter box and not my shag carpeting.

“Yeah, and this is Mango’s collar. I kept it after he died. He looked so nice in blue. Oh, and I want to show you these. My daughters made them for me. Macaroni necklaces.”

“Madam, do you mean pasta?”

“Yeah, but don’t eat ‘em or anything.”

“Is there anything else in your bottomless bag of any value?”

“Yeah, look at this.”

I pull out a black and white photograph that I am lucky enough to own. A war photographer from Dunbar took it during the Vietnam War. It’s a photograph of a priest serving Communion in the jungle—guns laid aside, young men with their heads bowed. There is not much to say when looking at this photo. No one ever really can speak.

“It reminds me that there is nowhere on this earth that God can’t go, Ken.”

He waits a moment before speaking. “Your things are sentimental and lovely--”

“Ken, you can’t put a price on these things; they’re priceless. You don’t have to say it. It’s been fun.”

In reality, Mr. Farmer will come and leave without the pleasure of knowing me and seeing my most valued possessions. But it’s a lovely fantasy. I think I will keep this in mind when I need to be reminded of how truly rich I am.


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Marta Martin makes her home in Charleston, West Virginia. After spending 17 years in radio she gave up her microphone for a keyboard and has been writing ever since. She says writing is the only thing that comes close to the "shut up and listen while I talk" kind of feeling she enjoyed in her radio days. Contact her at FunnyGirl@southernhumorists.com.



EDITOR'S NOTE: We are saddened to report Marta's death on Friday, May 19, 2006. She will certainly be missed and remembered as a tremendously talented writer.

Read more of Marta Martin's stories at USADEEPSOUTH!
Strength in Unity
John, Jess and Jimmy

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