Issue 81 / May - June 2011
My Treasure Jars
I can only imagine how I would feel if I knew I only had seventy-two hours to live. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and though I am forty-five years old their beauty still amazes me. The lush greens in the Spring and Summer, the marvelous colors in the fall, and-when Old Man Winter does his magic-the snow-capped mountains are a sight to see! The thought of never seeing them again makes me very sad.
In the mountains, people use mason jars for everything: canning, flower vases, gifts, moonshine, drinking glasses, treasure jars â€“ the list goes on and on. Thereâ€™s not much a good old mason jar can't do for us country folk. Believe me, a person has never had a good glass of tea until they have drank it from a mason jar full of ice, with a slice of lemon shoved down in it. It is m.....m....good!
The treasure jar is the one I want to write about. The name treasure jar explains itself. Itâ€™s very simple. People decorate the jars and then put items in them that they treasure themselves. The treasure can be a simple recipe passed down generations through the family, or it can contain rare old coins worth a fortune. It all depends on what the person holds dear to them in their own hearts. Once the jars are filled, they are given as gifts.
When I was a child, I would catch lightning bugs and put them in an old mason jar and set them on a table beside my bed. I would watch them light up until I fell asleep. It was a "simple" but "great" treasure in my young eyes. But no matter how hard I would pray for them to live forever beside my bed, they would always die.
I have thought about it a lot, and if I only had seventy-two hours to live, this is what I would do: First, I would buy five-hundred mason jars in different sizes, then I would put my "prized" possessions in them. Next, I would distribute them in unique ways so that the people getting them would surely smile. Remember that where I'm from, "prized" possessions do not have to have monetary value. They only have to mean something special to the one giving the jars.
The people that I would give my jars to would be chosen very carefully because, after all, I'm giving away "my" prized treasures. The first jars made would be for my four grandchildren. I have three boys and one girl, ages running from newborn to age seven. In my granddaughterâ€™s jar I would put some pictures of us together, as well as a recording of my voice with a special message just for her. I would also add my pearls and ask her to wear them on her wedding day. That way a part of me will be with her on her special day. I would arrange for the jar to be given to her on her wedding day. The boys' jars would also contain a recording of my voice and some pictures as well , but one would contain a watch given to me by my father. Another, a case knife I've had for years. The last one would contain an old engagement ring of mine, so that whoever receives it can give it to his true love someday. I would want their jars given on special days as well, such as their senior graduation or eighteenth birthday.
The next jars would go to my son and daughter. My daughters jar would contain the rest of my jewelry, and then I would share with her my whole life story. I would tell her things about myself that I have never told anyone. I think she would be very surprised about some of the things she would learn. I believe some things are better left unsaid until the time is right to share them.
My sons jar would contain some old coins that belonged to his father and all of my old love letters written by his father when I was only fifteen years old. I would also include the poetry and songs I've written over the years that no one else has ever seen or heard.
The next thing I would do is take twenty of the jars and write down all of the hopes and dreams and goals that I had, but never got to accomplish. I would release them into the river along with a note to those who found them that would say," live everyday like itâ€™s your last, because it may well be."
The rest of my jars would travel across the seas, to other states, and hopefully to the White House. Some jars would be painted red, white and blue and sent over seas for the men and women serving our country. Their jars would contain thank-you notes for their brave gestures, and also a lucky penny in each one. Next, I would love for one of my jars to make it to the president and his family. In their jar I would place inspirational notes for them to read to lift them up when times seem really hard. I would also explain how happy I was to have lived long enough to see a historical moment in time. I would also include two handkerchiefs that were embroidered. one would say, "MR. PRESIDENT' and the other one would say, "FIRST LADY". The only way I can think of to get it to the president is to go to the media, so thatâ€™s exactly what I would do.
Finally, the rest of my jars would be divided in half and shipped to The Shriners Hospital and to The ST. Judes Hospital, because they treat very sick children for free. The jars would be decorated and filled with small toys and trinkets along with an inspirational note to encourage them to keep on fighting until they find a cure for their diseases. I would want the jars to be given to the children as soon as possible, because these children are fighting for their lives, and some may not make it.
I believe my jars would bring peace to others as well as myself because they would know they were on my mind in my final moments of life. It would also bring me peace to know that I left a part of myself all over the world. And thatâ€™s something special, considering I've always lived in the mountains and have lived a very simple life.
Once my goal was achieved, I would spend time in prayer. I would pray for my loved ones as well as myself because I would not tell them I was going to die, because I want to remember them with a happy, joyful spirit, not with a sad broken one. But if, for some reason, I was given more time to live, I would do the things I've always wanted to do, like write a book, record the songs I've written, and I would love to be able to travel to places I've never been to.
Life is short, and time passes quickly, but I want to live. But just like the lightning bugs I caught as a child, I will eventually die. Life and Death walk together hand in hand. Life screams, "LIVE!" and Death screams, "YOU BETTER LIVE BECAUSE I AM COMING AFTER YOU SOONER THAN YOU THINK!"
Belinda Sturgill is a freelance writer. She lives in McRoberts, KY, and she can be reached at [email protected] With this essay, she won an honorable mention in The Fountain Essay Contest 2010.