Treasures in the rough

I’m just back from the ninth annual girls’ trip to Dresden, Ohio and the Longaberger basket factory.  Four basket-loving friends started this July tradition in 2006; at the time we started, it was perfect timing for me as Sam and Nick always spent the first two weeks of July with their dad and I missed them terribly so this way I could have something to do while they were gone; a distraction from missing them.  

Last year I went, too, even though it had only been a few months since Sam had died so tragically from what we came to know was a synthetic drug called 25i-NBOMe.  When we went last year, we did a balloon release while we were there for each of the four of us has experienced the heartbreak of loved young one's lost.

As the years have gone by, the area has been hit by hard times due to the economy, etc.  For the last several years, we have pondered in the three hour car ride there what will have changed and if we should consider going somewhere else next year.  But no matter what the changes, by the time we head home we are talking about our trip there next year.

Besides the Dresden, Ohio street signs, Nick Blvd and Sam Ave, the treasures I found this year were:

- A mail basket tray as daily mail arrives addressed to Sam that I’m not prepared to throw away.  While I was gone, both Sam and Nick got college mail and Sam got something from the Marines, too… I paused when I saw it last night and thought if Sam were still here to get his mail would the Marines mail be one that I accidentally slipped in with the sales flyers that I would naturally throw in the recycle so Sam wouldn’t be tempted to read something that interested him further in a career path that this mother’s heart did not want to endure although now I’ve had to face that devastation I feared.

- A large basket to hold Sam’s large blanket that I keep at my side whenever I’m in the living room.  I remember our last time when Sam had that blanket; he brought it with him in the backseat with a pillow when I drove him to Noblesville weeks before he died.  He had a full day of playing AAU games and after his morning game we had gone to his personal favorite Chick-fil-a.  Sam loved chicken biscuits and while we sat and ate he went up to the counter twice for more food; signs of a growing teen.  I had gotten the fruit with yogurt and had not used the granola.  Sam asked if I would put that in my purse and keep it as he might want it later.  I did.  And it’s still in my purse today.  It was also the last day that my mom saw Sam alive.  She had come over for the afternoon games and when we left our last conversation at the car was how well Sam had done on his practice ACT.  He had scored what I had to get into the University of Illinois and my mom was complimenting him and predictably Sam downplayed the bragging of his mother and grandmother.

- A cookie jar to replace the glass fruit bowl that sits on the counter.  The fruit bowl use to overflow with cuties, bananas, apples and the like to go with the large volume of family time, games and laughter.  After Sam’s passing in combination with sporadic shopping, the fruit bowl has remained mostly empty the past year and on the occasion that it did have fruit in it, the fruit ended up in the trash spoiled more than it did anyone’s stomach.  So now a cookie jar so that when it is empty just as much as the fruit bowl has been, no one will know.

- Two decks of playing cards to replace the worn ones we now have from daily card games of Rummy.  Between my friend Robin, Nick and my mom, we will no longer know who is holding the ten of clubs by the torn corner or the queen of spades by the bent crease in the card.

- and many treasures of the Nick kind… 
   - A teacher figurine that will grow grass hair of the chia pet style    that I will help Nick grow this summer and put in a grass ponytail like his favorite home room teacher wears that I can see him presenting to her for a laugh to show what he did this summer.  
   - A gurgle fish, of the mystery nature that Nick thoroughly enjoys… when you tip it to pour water out it gurgles reminiscent of when you put the seashell up to your ear and you hear the ocean.  
   - A basket shaped like a football to go on his nightstand holding little collectibles he finds and then end up on his nightstand.  Right now that includes: a piece of paper that is burned by liquid in a chemistry class project he thoroughly enjoyed and repeated several times; a dollar coin; a peso; a clothes pin that says “keep being you”; a small purple container that holds hand-size cleaning wipes and says Johnson County Memorial Hospital on it which indicates he likely picked it up at one of the forums he helped me with; and a SAMs Watch bracelet.

My treasures found this year in the rough, at the crossroads of glory days and future prosperity, are indeed my personal journey’s crossroads, too.  #muchlovetosamandnick