I’ve been reading and pondering Zen for the past couple weeks. Zen emphasizes letting go of attachments. Now, the final assignment for Writing 101 is to tell the story of the thing I most treasure. Irony.

As I think over all the possibilities, it’s hard to come up with anything. I can think of a lot of things that have come and gone: my computer, my next computer, my computer after that, my purple pen (it was a disposable, but I still liked it very much), the Batmobile I got for Christmas when I was 10 (and lasted six hours before my little brother broke it), various power tools, new car and my next new car.

I can think of a few things that I’ve managed not to lose or break: my wedding ring, my monogrammed mahogany box where I keep pins and buttons, nail clippers, old money clips and Silas’s baby teeth. (Yes, I was the tooth fairy.)

I suppose it’s a few of those things in the box that are my most treasured possessions. There’s plenty of other junk in that box, too. Anybody else going through it would never pick out the treasure from the clutter. Some of it probably ought to be thrown out. But among that stuff I’ve kept just a few things. They’re what I hang onto, one move after the next. They remind me of people I treasure: my wife, my son.

In the case of my grandfather, I have several other things handed down after he died in 1998. I still have a couple of his white handkerchiefs, now worn thin. Last summer my mother passed on a couple topographic maps of the Green Mountains and Adirondacks she recovered from his basement. They’re old and brittle now, and despite their being tightly wrapped in a cardboard sheath, I’m not sure how well they’ll survive the next moves. It’s his silver money clip in the mahogany box, though, that I remember him by. It’s the one thing I have from him that’s not likely to break or wear out. It’s something he carried every day and took on an element of his personality by its proximity to him over I don’t know how many years.

If there is anything I really treasure, it would be that small collection of useless odds and ends in the mahogany box. I could live without it. I open it only occasionally. But if it weren’t there I’d miss it. That’s the proof.