How To Turn Junk Into Gold

It’s been a year. A year of ups and downs that was not all that different from other years except for one big thing — my mom wasn’t around this year. The highs have been a little less high and the lows have been significantly lower but as much as things are different things are also the same and that might be the hardest part about the whole thing. I’m not ready to look ahead and right now it’s too hard to look back so these days I just look at what’s right in front of me — and often it is this little tiny figurine of Emmet from The Lego Movie that I keep on my desk.


My mom was notorious for many things but I think what most people will ultimately remember are the gifts she gave. They were generally small, typically cute, often holiday themed. They definetly were not expensive or fancy or particularly useful — although this Lego figurine does have a handy built in pen! In fact, to the untrained eye they could be easily mistaken for junk.

Over the years, the people who were on the receiving end of these gifts slowly began to realize that these little trinkets - readily available at just about any dollar store or CVS - held a special place in their homes and as a result, a special place in their hearts too. I know this because in the stories I heard from her family and friends over the past year — many of them were told through a mixture of laughter and tears as they recalled unpacking a certain Christmas or Thanksgiving decoration she gave them or perhaps a little shamrock shaped candy dish they put out on St. Patrick’s Day. They found them thoughtful but funny when they first recieved them and now they had become more.

If you were lucky, she’d give you a starter set of junk on your wedding day. I remember her putting those packages together — one little trinket for every little holiday because a house isn’t really a home until you have one or two stuffed snowmen with sewn on red cheeks and a chubby Santa to keep them company. Because a house isn’t a home until you have a pilgrim shaped salt & pepper shaker set for Thanksgiving. Right?

In my livingroom right now I can count five different gifts that she gave me in the last few months of her life and I can’t help but find comfort in them all. I think she knew that one day all of these little things she gave away would become far more than the sum of their parts, that one day they would be more valuable than gold. She taught me that. She taught me that applying the word “nice” to an inanimate object, like a cup of coffee or a turkey sandwich, could give it a personality of its own. It wasn’t just a cup of coffee; it was the type of cup of coffee you’d hope your future daughter would marry. It was a nice cup. It wasn’t just a turkey sandwich but the type of turkey sandwich that you could trust with a secret. It was nice.

She showed me there was magic in the mundane, that gifts can be given at anytime for any reason, and that small acts of love add up big time in the end. The things that you can easily overlook, or ignore, or throw way — those are the things you need to pay attention to in life, those are the things.

If I had to choose between having her here or having this stuffed Woodstock wearing bunny ears (pictured below) sitting on my dresser I would of course choose having her here, but I am so grateful for the little things she left behind and the lessons they still hold.

I’ve heard that part of growing up is learning to stand more firmly on your own two feet, to learn how to be alone, to accept things the way they are but I don’t care about all that. Wherever life takes me,Woodstock is coming with — bunny ears and all. Because stuff like that isn’t junk, it’s gold.