A massive purse sat propped open in her lap as I approached. From the seat beside her she moved a small pack of tissues, two pens, and a broken pencil to make room for me. I took my seat and gasped as something jabbed me in the left buttock.
“I think you forgot this.” I said, handing her the bristled end of a broken hair brush.
“Sorry!” she shook her head apologetically. “I wanted to clean out this old purse on the ride to work and I have thrown things everywhere.”
The bus continued its route while she continued her cleaning. She shuffled through hand-written notes, balled up scraps of paper, and checked and rechecked zippered compartments in the giant purse.
“Well look at this.” she said as she held up a small green marble. “I found it in the yard one day when I left the house and forgot I’d put it in here. My son is grown but he had a set of green marbles he played with all the time. I’m sure it was one of his.”
“You should hold on to it then.” I said. She stared at the marble she held in the air.
“I’m too sentimental as it is.” she said and handed me the marble. “Here, if someone says you’ve lost your marbles, now you have proof you haven’t!” We both laughed and I took the small green marble she pressed into my hand.
“It’s crazy to hold on to it just because it reminds me that my son was a tiny boy.” she stared through the bus window.
“Not really.” I said. “I have boxes of things like that marble”.
She turned around and tossed the last few items back into her purse that had been scattered in her seat as we’d talked. She looked at me expecting, I assumed, to hear what I had in the boxes I’d mentioned.
“You wouldn’t keep something as silly as a marble, would you?” she asked.
“Ohhh yes.” I said as I thought of my sentimental trinkets. “From the time I was a kid I’ve kept a puppy tooth our collie lost, a feather from a quail I hatched in an incubator, and a heart-shaped rock I found in the pasture.”
“I just might keep those too.” she smiled out of courtesy.
On a roll, I continued. “I have the cracker tin my grandmother used in her kitchen, a tiny basket my son carved from a peach pit, and a pocket knife my uncle gave me for helping him one day.”
“I just might keep those too!” she smiled again and seemed to give thought to the relevance of everyday trinkets.
I told her more about various items I have in boxes and drawers, any one of which could look like meaningless trash to others. To me, each has a story.
Who could know the number of times my grandmother’s caring hands opened the cracker tin? The sharp little puppy tooth is a reminder of my collie’s first year as my best friend. The peach pit basket was carved by my son with the help of my father who passed away just over a year ago.
Every tiny silly trinket I keep is accompanied by a wonderful story. All I need to do is pick one up to go back in time for a minute or two. Good reminders of great times. At the mention of each of my keepsakes the woman beside me agreed she just might keep that one too.
I felt I’d bored her with too much nostalgia when I saw her turn away and stare straight ahead. She had a slight smile on her face, though, when she turned to me and pointed at my coat.
One step ahead of her, I had already reached for the small green marble in my pocket. I pressed it into her hand.
“I just might keep that.” she said.
Stuart M. Perkins