We were not in possession of any ancient or mysterious frayed-on-the-fringes map. No dated parchment, inscribed with a large red “X” marking the spot, had been dug up in our backyard.
This laborious pursuit would not be that simple!
Our joint adventure had been in the works for months, a mutual agreement between my wife and me. Push came to shove, or shall I say “shovel,” and we finally found the time to get to work with some determined digging.
Exceedingly confident of multiple treasures to be unearthed, we were nevertheless supremely uncertain as to the specifics. Any price tag was unquantifiable.
Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, we’d accumulated plenty of Southwest Airlines travel points, but no plane tickets were needed for this unprecedented expedition. This locale was almost right under our noses.
While we considered sending word to Indiana Jones for some experienced navigational guidance in our novice quest into the antiquities, we opted to go it alone!
We had no idea whether the local Walmart stocked metal detectors, but figured the depths of our search would be well out of range.
We chose not to make use of a spade or pickaxe, but figured we’d do most of our digging by hand. An archaeological venture requiring tools somewhere between a toothbrush and a backhoe, we should have brought a wheel barrel.
Traversing slightly east, then through a small opening, we headed briefly north. Around a small bend, we turned back west. Knowledgeable of the terrain, we happened upon the secret entryway. Bravely, I offered to take the initial steps in this miniature world of the vast unknown.
Simultaneously calculated and spontaneous – yes, we know that appears incongruent – we realized our vision was somewhat diminished due to the lateness of our start. Nimbly, we found and switched on some nearby spotlights and began our much-anticipated exploration.
The first steps across the threshold and into a vast cavern seemed almost as if we had opened the wardrobe as Peter and Susan once did in C. S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There was a door, but this was no fantasy novel, and it was much more than a mere standalone wardrobe!
I had entered the “twilight zone” of the “historic” walk-in bedroom closet of our twin sons, Timothy and Eric. Yes, I speak of the grown, married, and moved-out-of-the-house-over-a-decade-ago, twin sons. What were the many gifts they’d forgetfully left behind?
We, like perhaps many of you, possess the strategically placed “dumping grounds” infamously known as the “junk drawer!” What you may not have, as we are well-endowed with, is the presence of numerous “junk closets” throughout our humble domain. Don’t mention to my wife that I said this!
Our master bedroom notwithstanding, with all our children long gone from the Ottawa homestead, most all our countless closets are congested with captivating contents.
Precariously, I started opening the mismatched tubs randomly stacked atop one another. Inside were thousands of old newspaper clippings, magazine articles, programs, game and season statistical printouts, photographs, and wall-posters. On elevated shelves were a collection of autographed basketballs enshrined in squares of plexiglass.
We found shoeboxes packed with every imaginable player-of-the-game wall-plaque with enough wood to start a small bonfire. Decades-old practice jerseys hung from mesh bags. Scrounging around we found what seemed like hundreds of picture frames, of every imaginable configuration, some of which even had photographs still in them.
Scrapbooks were everywhere from multiple periods of history including their infancy, adolescence, and adulthood. Few books, if any, were ever finished, but those pages which happened to be completed were professional and priceless as we both took quick glances. Some were unused while a select few would never be opened again as they had been admirably crafted by old girlfriends.
And speaking of books, most all were children’s books, frequent gifts from their late grandmother. In no particular order, “The Wolf’s Chicken Stew” stood right alongside “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Is Your Mama a Llama?” and “The Polar Express.”
Neither twin tended to crack open books on their own until much later in life. In fact, the story is told if Eric hadn’t started paying attention to a co-ed on the campus of Miami University, he might never have learned where the library was located. During his junior year, after class one day, he followed her there. Almost shockingly, she ended up his wife!
Adding to the confusion of our diligent reorganizing dig, the cavernous closet’s contents were not limited as a wasteland exclusive to the twins. Somehow it had morphed into a storehouse for all four of our now-grown children.
Jointly, we were supremely overwhelmed by the endless array of beloved treasures. It became readily apparent there had been numerous – valiant as they might be – attempts to categorize and organize the thousands of pictures, pieces of elementary artwork, and year-end awards and certificates, but sadly to no avail. Folders, envelopes, boxes, and tubs, now lay scattered throughout the bedroom, each contained literal lifetimes of precious family memories.
It would take years to consolidate the treasure chest of history within. An appropriate display for the increasing mass of grandkids would be a worthy endeavor.
And my wife was wondering how she might fill her days given her recent retirement last month! Keep digging, girl! I’ll join you soon!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com