Things that make me happy

#425 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 2003, Hills Newspapers

Incredibly satisfying things — I’ll tell you a few of mine. Yours are probably different but surely you have them too and, hopefully, often.
Garage sale items a friend was going to sell but let me have: 2 books, both true accounts of wilderness living. One is by a woman whose first book I devoured not long ago wrapping myself in thrilling description of building a house of huge and heavy logs, heading a small power boat into icy waters, hiking mountains, splitting high piles of firewood.

And now, through the generosity of my friend, I have two new, good reads. I am rich. I also got another treasure, kinda funny, but I am pleased: a soft plastic doll, a Luke-from-Starwars figure with Yoda on his back in a pack. The two stand up and Yoda’s head turns. They’re standing on my kitchen window sill now.

At a listing, an estate sale, the house was empty, nothing left at all except curtains on the windows. But when I opened all of the kitchen cabinets, one had been overlooked, the spice cupboard. How unexpected. The cleaner-outers had just missed this one.

I was really happy. I took out all the contents, the plastic whirligigs, Spice Island and Schilling cans and bottles, glass jars of baking soda and sugar, and took them home, spent fun time discarding, washing, saving a few – for what? I don’t know.

Some jars are marked with price tags from Capwell’s and Hink’s (one says 40 cents), the paper labels so brittle that they fell apart at the edges, so I carefully glued them back on.

There weren’t any old red-and-orange Schilling boxes like the ones I remember from my childhood, the kind that held cinnamon sticks and mustard seed. I was sorry for this. The woman whose spices these were must have cleaned out her cupboard in the 1950s or 1960s.

From another house, I have a painted spice shelf, meant to hang on the wall behind the stove, and I’ve been looking for old Schilling boxes to put in it. To remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen, I guess.

In our travels, we come across discarded wood, perfect for fireplace kindling. Old, unpainted fence parts are the finest. I put them in the car trunk and carry them to my fireplace. This week I got 2 post pieces, perfectly dry, and a handful of dry lath. They flare well.

Children’s poetry, I love much of it, mostly the old rhyming kind like this by A.A. Milne: “If I were a bear, and a big bear too, I shouldn’t much care if it froze or snew…”

I am on the outlook for more. An indulgence for me is an hour in the children’s section of a bookstore poring over poetry collections. The new editions are often disappointing. Betters ones I find in the library but they’re out of print now and hard to acquire.

I find the words in my favorite poems so very cozy, predicable in their matches, yet surprising, too. Children’s poetry is direct and fun, no guesswork about the underlying meaning. And clever, often it is very, very clever.

Family stories can be treasures to savor, ponder, and tell. I love hearing family stories like the one our friend Lisa recently told Anet and me about her great-grandmother. This is a romantic story of a woman who rode horses on her cattleman husband’s ranch in New Mexico in the 1890s and who, as divorce settlement, suddenly owned half a herd of cattle. She decided to relocate to Hawaii so she shipped the herd there too. She opened a shop in Honolulu selling native Hawaiian antiques, later marrying a newspaper editor and moving to San Francisco.

What was this woman like, Anet and Lisa and I wondered? What did she see and think and feel, this adventurer at such a different time? Would we have been like her, done the things she did? We guessed and imagined together, enjoying our sharing.

In my garden, blooming now, are dark purple, daisy-like cineraria, the seeds of which were brought to me in a brown paper lunch bag by a friend before she died. Every time I see them, I think of her. I am glad for the reminder.

I also have orange geraniums and pink hydrangeas, a bulb with tiny white and red faced flowers, and a self-seeding lilac impatience. All of these are cutting or seed gifts from friends, friends I think of because of their presence in my garden walks.

And, sweet happiness, I have my goldfish. Two goldfish swim merrily in a clear glass candy jar on my kitchen counter next to the coffee maker. I’ve named them Molly and Malone. Anet gave them to me, and I love her for it.

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