Bright summer day in the woods, blinding sparkles from a New Hampshire brook catch the eye of a five-year-old adventurer. He splashes into the shallows, never mind the wet shoes (that he’ll whine about later). The crisp water wants him, wants him now. Miniature waterfalls bouncing over boulders fill his hands with pure delight.
And there, right there! The most perfect rock….no, not a rock. Clear, blue, heavy, seductively smooth, a window into another place if he looks hard enough. A treasure, to be sure. “Mom, Dad, look! Look what I found!” We smile at his joy, at his naivité.
The week flows on, with walks in sun-mottled woods and breakneck wild rides down the mountain on the alpine slide. A trail ride in the woods with my daughter, the two of us lulled into calmness by horse hooves thumping the trail. While we moved from moment to moment, the boy’s experiences are anchored by the treasure in his pocket.
We were unaware of the preciousness of this object. A week after the trip my son came up to me, business on his brow. “Mom. This thing I found. I know it’s worth something, worth a lot. How do we find out how much?”
I had had no idea of the importance of that moment of discovery to him. A deep breath lends time to dismiss practicality. And to find the fine line between preserving his perception, yet tell the truth. I explained the concept of appraisals, and how the world defines what things are worth. But, dear boy, there are things that no one can put a value on. Some things are worth so much, they are called priceless. And that is what you have found.
He kept that piece of sea glass, that priceless, timeless remnant of yesterday, safe in a secret place for years. In fourth grade, wonder washed out by worldliness, he recognized the glass for what it was. By then it had indeed been infused with value. He created a display filled with shadows of memories. A ticket stub from his voyage to England. A foreign coin. A saved drawing of a hungry monster. And the precious piece of glass. A title created from poetry magnets: Time Is Like Milk.
It is. It makes no sense. No logical connection. But it is. And it’s perfect.