What's Your Most Treasured Possession? Or Why French Verb Tables Make Me Feel Things

Treasured possessions are not just the things that you’d rescue from a burning building; they’re the things that you’d burn for.

Jan 24, 2013 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

I’ve moved house quite a few times since I left home at 19, from flat share to home again, to house share, to house share to house share, back home again -- you get the picture.

I always want to keep everything I own, to the point where packing boxes takes longer and longer and I’m terrified of forgetting a book or a teddy or, I don’t know, some old cheese or something.

After a while, I realized that you can’t keep everything -– you need to scale down when you move out. So what gets left behind? And more importantly, what makes it into those precious boxes?

Treasured possessions are the things that always make the cut. They might be the things that are the most scuffed, broken, old and distressed, but they’ll always find a home inside your new place. They’re not just the things that you’d rescue from a burning building; they’re the things that you’d burn for. The items that mean more when you look at them than just objects -- they are memories, happiness and sadness all rolled into one. Sometimes it hurts to have them nearby but you know that if you don’t, it will feel worse.

Every morning when I make my bed, I arrange the three cushions on top of the pillows and then place Samuel pride of place next to them. I’m not really a soft toy kind of person, you won’t find any others scattered around our bedroom, but Samuel is different.

Samuel is a soft basset hound, made by Russ 26 years ago. My Dad bought him for my Mum when they found out she was pregnant with me, and as soon as I was old enough I stole him for myself.

I think at first I loved him because he smelled warm and comforting and of my Mum’s perfume, and when I hugged him at night I felt safe. Now, he smells old, and one of his eyes has rubbed out a little and he is floppier than he was back in the day, but I love him even more.

I remember when we went on holidays, Samuel always made the cut. Always. And if it was a little more socially acceptable for a 25-year-old woman to take a cuddly toy to work every day I probably would. LET’S MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

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Look at his little face!!

A recent addition to my shortlist of treasured possessions is a Dinky model of Lady Penelope’s car, FAB1, from the show "Thunderbirds." My Dad always collected model cars, and he had this one pride of place in the cabinet in our living room when I was growing up. I used to finger the glass it was housed in, and marvel at how pink and shiny it was, and want to play with Lady Penelope and touch her blonde bob.

My Dad knew how much I loved the little car and said I could have it on my 18th birthday, when I was a GROWN UP! But of course, 18 came and I was completely untrustworthy with ANYTHING, which continued until probably only a couple of years ago. I think he was terrified I’d sell it, which when I was 19 I probably would have done, because I was an idiot. So he kept it safe. 

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Just before Christmas, Dad popped over and brought with him a little package. Finally, at the age of 25-and-a-half, I was old enough and responsible enough to take on this treasure. I put it in our dresser, and every time I look at it, I feel proud that I have earned my dad’s trust enough for him to leave it with me, one of his prized possessions. 

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My dresser with some of my most prized items in, including Chris’ London-to-Brighton Bike Ride medal, and an empty bottle of wine from my 16th birthday! Told you I was a hoarder.

In the same wooden dresser is a Collins Language book. When I was eight years old, on a Wednesday after wrestling my Grandad for the last digestive biscuit, I borrowed his French Verb Tables book.

Small and blue, with pages as thin as rice paper, I hadn’t a clue what anything in it actually meant. I knew that French was something exciting and that clever people knew how to read and write it; I knew that I wanted to learn it. He took me aside, and I sat on his knee and pretended to be able to pronounce the words within, obviously failing miserably.

But he patiently sat and kindly repeated the words I was making up. Smiling and nodding. When we drove home later that evening, I held the book in my hand. I had borrowed it, I was going to learn French verbs! I was going to BE FRENCH!

Later that week, my Grandad drove away from the bungalow he shared with my Nan. The bungalow that we spent every Wednesday evening at, with its garden bursting with flowers and the trees full of cobnuts and plums and big fat, ugly apples. 

When he was found dead, weeks later, and I knew he wasn't going to come home -- that he hadn’t gone to take photos of birds on his own or gone to climb a mountain or ride his bike- - I was devastated that I still had his French Verb Tables. I hadn’t given the little blue book back. Was he going to be angry with me, wherever he was? Would he have come home if he had the book at home to read? 

If my flat were to be ransacked, I would rather burglars took my jewelry, my computers, my TV, my bed, my curtains. Everything. Take everything and leave me with those French verb tables. Leave me alone with those thin, slightly transparent pages that still have his invisible fingerprints on them.

When I next move, I know the items that will be coming with me regardless of room size or color scheme. What do you hold great sentimental attachment to? I’m intrigued.

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