I don’t know if it’s what you’d call a treasured possession, but it was at the time. I was about, oh, fifth grade or so, and my parents finally agreed to let us have a dog. They got that way because the neighbor’s dog had puppies and we were pestering them to get a dog, so you know how that goes. So we walked over to the neighbor’s and picked out a puppy. It was some kind of collie mix, so it looked like a short-haired Lassie, kind of. We don’t know for sure what it was, but it was just a little, tiny puppy. When you’re only 11 years old or so, that’s quite a possession. I got to carry it home, and it was cold, so I put it under my coat. And that dog became all of our friends. So that was, at the time, a pretty prized possession. I think that would be considered a pretty good part of the story. Made me think of that when everyone else was talking.
This was difficult for me. Everything that I have is a treasured possession. Everything I see, I can think about making something out of it, or working with it, or creating something in some way. So I guess the possession I have that I should be talking about is creation. I’m always wanting to create something. Every house I’ve ever owned has needed to be rebuilt, so I’ve set about doing it. It’s everything I find: “I could use that someday, somewhere.” I have a garage full. Now I’m thinking about, “Well, maybe I should eliminate some of those things so I can narrow it down.” But everything seems to be important to me.
Well, I keep a small black stone in a creature bag at home. I found her illegally on a mound in 1992, and what I love about her is she sits in the palm of my hand if I hold her and—it’s a her, the stone—I get it out of the bag anytime I need a mother. My mother’s long gone, but I call this my mother stone, and she just sits there and I think about it for a while. But she’s very comforting, and she helps me find my way when I’m in a puzzle, and she also is a friend. And I always know where she is, which is very good. Sometimes I show her to people, but I don’t always. And sometimes I show them to my grandchildren and they’re puzzled, but I think they appreciate the fact that I’m a stone person, but that’s a special one.
Describe a treasured possession.
I’ve got all kinds of stuff. Tools, things I’ve had for years, so I just grabbed something off the top of my head. I picked this mayonnaise spatula. My parents had a sandwich restaurant back in the ‘70s and I think I just got it out of Mom’s drawer before any of the other kids, and I don’t know if they would have wanted it or not. But, you know, it’s just been around for so many years, and I’ve made so many sandwiches with it, it just spreads the mayonnaise really nice.
I think my prized possession at the moment is probably a notebook that I’ve had for a really long time, and it’s small and just…it’s pretty simple. Our neighbors who live up the street who we don’t know very well had kids, and they’re grown up now, and they had a whole box full of various school supplies that were never used, and they gave it to us. One of them was this notebook, and I used it as my journal for several years, and I’ve written a lot of memories in it. I really like it.
When I was younger I got a peacock feather quill for my birthday, and I really liked writing with it a lot. I loved birds when I was younger, I think it reminded me of Harry Potter ‘cause they always write with quills.
I remember some of those bright red and yellow records, too [from the previous story]. I think some of them were even my mom’s that we still have at her house. She plays her old Woody Woodpecker records for my kids now; they think it’s awesome. The treasured possession I was going to talk about is my banjo. I’d wanted to learn to play the banjo for a long time but I kind of never got around to it, and when my family was living in Boston for two years, the kids and I went to this family choir there called the Newton Family Singers that had started up just a year or 6 months before we moved there. And it was the first time I had heard of an intergenerational choir like that. And one of the organizers, Andy, was some sort of high-power lawyer in Boston, but loved folk music, and in particular, I think he was really inspired by the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?—the music in that movie. And he had taken a bunch of lessons and learned to play quite a few folk instruments, including the banjo. And one time I mentioned to him that like, “Oh yeah, I meant to learn the banjo, but then I never have.” This was toward the end of our time in Boston, and he and the other leaders of that group knew that we were moving back to Iowa and that I was thinking of trying to start a family choir here, and he said, “You should do it! You need to learn the banjo! In fact, I have like, three banjos—I’ll sell you one of them.” And I was like “Uhhhhh” And then it just came to me like this flash, like “With the banjo, you will lead them.” And I was like “Okay!” And so I went up to Andy’s house a couple times and he started showing me how to do the claw hammer banjo style, and it was very hard to catch on to it, but after a while I could kind of do it. I still haven’t actually really learned how to play the banjo, but I can play it sort of in my own special way. But it’s thanks to Andy ‘cause otherwise I would not have gotten around to actually getting a banjo, so I feel like the banjo is this tangible representation of the fact that that choir in Massachusetts has helped to sort of seed our choir here in Iowa City.
My prized possession is the old Zenith record radio console my parents had—they bought that before I was even born—and the records. I had brothers, so they bought a lot of these red, yellow, orange, black, children’s records. And I learned very early on how to stack those things and just let them plop onto the turntable. And I even remember some of the titles; there was The Duck With Big Flat Feet, Henny Penny, Early to Bed Early to Rise, Davy Crockett, Clementine, Peter Pan, Mickey Mouse, Crocodile…you know. And, maybe she did, but I do not ever remember my mother telling me “Don’t you want to go play outside?” or, you know, “Let’s give the record player a rest.” I’d just play these over and over, and I remember the Firestone Christmas albums that would come out, Julie Andrews. They loved George Beverly Shay, and Saturdays we would listen to the Lighthouse Hour which was like a radio play. Not too long ago, I took the radio out so I could take it to Cedar Rapids to get it fixed. It’s wonderful, I can turn it on, it’s got a really good sound, you can see that orange glow again of the dial. It just brings back so many memories of all the music and all the wonderful times in that kitchen.
Describe a treasured possession:
It’s a picture with me and then-running-for-president Barack Obama. I think it was taken in 2008, the first time he ran, and it was in the Press-Citizen after he made a stop in Iowa City. I was telling him that I was a patient at the VA Veterans’ Hospital, and I thought it was great. And he said “The problem was not the care you receive once you were there, it was getting in to the system.” I also had a thank you letter from him for taking part in his campaign.
I wanted to play the accordion, but I was told it was only for boys. So I was given a clarinet. I played it half-heartedly and quit. Now I play what I want to–drums–in my 70’s.