Two years ago, my aunt (who lives in California) came to visit, and I sent her home with a treasure box to give my second cousins (also in California.) The girls were 3 and 5, and little Kay was just a bit too young.
This wasn't just any treasure box, either. It was a box full of real treasure (for little girls, that is).
There's a great gem-mining place up in the NC Mountains where you can buy buckets of ore and sift for gems. Most valuable gemstones don't look like much to start with, but any variety of quartz will look pretty awesome, and so do some garnets and some of the younger emeralds. So I took the "fishtank" rocks (stones too small for value but still pretty) and all of the amethyst and quartz.
Then I found my own girlhood treasure box, emptied it out, scraped the half-disintegrated stickers off the old wood. The most interesting (and durable) of my own old treasures went back into the box. I added the gemstones from the mountains, and threw in souvenirs from some of the trips I've taken since then. Quartz crystals, amethysts, pieces of citrine, tiny chunks of garnet, small milky emeralds, pyrite, old marble chess pieces, a silver spoon from Switzerland, real coins from foreign countries. There was also some of my own old jewelry from when I was their ages, rings and necklaces and charms. It was the treasure chest I'd dreamed of when I was a little girl, after watching Shipwrecked a few times too many. It was like packing away my own secret girlhood dreams, a box of all the adventures I'd wanted as a kid and some of which I'd gotten as an adult. I tied it all up with a bright red satin ribbon, and sent it away with my aunt.
And mostly forgot about it, of course, except to occasionally wonder if the girls had gotten to it yet and if maybe they were enjoying it. Or maybe they were still a little too young, and it would be next year, or the year after.
Last night, I got a call from my aunt. In the background, I could hear little Kay and Em squealing and discovering their new treasure.
I could hear them interrupting my aunt to show off a new discovery: "Look! A ring!" and "It's a cat statue!"
Somewhere in the great expanse of California, right now, two little girls have just found a box of dreams. And I know, even as the jewels and gems and coins get scattered to the winds of time and playgrounds, that the little treasure box of dreams will only become more full.
The best gifts are the ones we get from giving.
What's the best gift you've ever given?