I grew up with a father and a godfather who both “went to sea” – chief engineer and captain, Norwegians who broke away from the farm and sought the greater world. I was an only child and only godchild who then reaped the bounty of the main, recipient of wondrous treasures from their journeys abroad.
I still treasure the painted maracas from South America; the golden necklace representing the Southern Cross in the Antarctic sky; a desk set from India with small carved elephants of teak adorning the ink wells; and my silver Solje pin, which was traditionally worn on the native costume in Norway, and not only represented the Midnight Sun, but was guaranteed to protect me from trolls and other dangers.
There were many more presents from their travels, but my favorite, most dear to my heart, was Jocko. I first met him on one of the occasions when Mother and I met Daddy’s ship at the dock and the excitement of seeing my father after his long sea journey was suddenly complicated by his hug which was followed by having him thrust a strange, furry creature into my arms.
Jocko, as I eventually named him, was a stuffed koala bear from Australia, who was actually (I was later informed) made of kangaroo fur and not koala, but smelling a bit of exotic wild animal and stuffed with hay. You might understand why my first encounter was tinged with a bit of repulsion and even fear.
How it was that the transition so quickly turned to undeniable love, I don’t recall. I simply remember that within hours he became my dearest companion and I not only insisted on sleeping with him in spite of his angular, hard stuffing and still-wild scent, but I took him along with me wherever I went – to fancy restaurants in the big city, to the local park to swing, to neighborhood picnics, and even to Sunday School.
I felt, and still feel, blessed with the bounty of love and treasures I received as a child. One special memento from Norman Erikssen, my godfather, was a box of carved ivory and tortoise shell (both endangered, illegal substances, and rightfully so, now), but so lovely, delicate and exotic. It is a magic box, a cache of wonder for a seven year old to secret away elements of love and enchantment.
Over the years it has housed many pieces of my heart. At times there were magical sea shells, found along my home stretch of beach; imaginary incantations inscribed upon magnolia leaves, a mumbo-jumbo crystal talisman, or even a treasured note from “the boy.”
Today, among other treasures, it contains my Grammy Marie’s wedding ring; one of the smaller angels from my mother’s collection; a pin that says “carpe diem” (my special magic words); a small envelope which reads in pencil – “Dear tooth fairy if your real or not, thank you for the money, Love Sean.” (I can feel the teensy tooth of our grandson through the envelope); my father’s medals from the war along with a postcard of a Delta Airplane with the message – “ My Dear Diane, I am up over the clouds bound for New Orleans. I will send you another card when we land, Love Daddy.” Particularly poignant because it was dated November 7th, 1946 and I never got that second postcard. He died in a hospital in New Orleans on December 23rd, two days before Christmas. There is a Mother’s Day poem written in grade school by my daughter, Noelle, the cover hand-stitched in a flowery fabric and beginning – “The flush of the garden is in the presence of you and I,” and going on to elucidate (way beyond her years) all of the mystical aspects of life that the two of us share and hold so dear. And there is the first letter that my husband wrote to me after our first date at Hungry Jose’s restaurant in our hometown of Long Beach, California, forty years ago. And if you were to read the letter, you might say – “who wouldn’t fall in love and pick this guy!”
And finally, from my box of treasures – one of many pen and ink gift tags – this one of Nick Chopper, the Tin Man of Oz which perfectly states – “Dearest Mum – Remember that ‘A heart is not judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.” Adoringly, your son, Kevin.”
Thanks to the Wizard. And Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all.