‘Must have the precious’

What is precious?

The recent UCT fire and the panicked evacuation of residences has probably had all of us contemplating what we would grab if we had to escape our homes in a rush.

University of Cape Town students were told to grab their ‘essentials’ and run, and most (well those who were there at the time of course) took only their documents, laptops and phones, and the forward-thinking ones took their chargers too (no surprises there). Some managed to extract textbooks and a few clothes, but several were left with only the clothes they stood up in.

Of course, it is important to save human lives before all else and we can be so grateful that despite the devastation of some the buildings on our beautiful mountain, no person died, but the fire did get me thinking about a time I ran (not quite for my life) but in some ways I certainly was escaping.

 When I fled post-911 America, I took with me the five most precious gifts the world has ever given me – well one was still inside me, so he was slightly easier to carry. But it was a nightmare trying to decide what to take with us and what to leave behind.

In the end what went into the suitcases was the bare essentials: clothing and Lego (I know – not what you were expecting, right? But it was guaranteed to keep my youngsters busy for hours – and it had cost a great deal.) Naturally I crammed our important documents into my suitcase, along with all our photographs (It was back in the days before digital storage), which were loose in a large box – you can guess how heavy that bag was! The only albums I took were the children’s poorly scrapbooked baby albums, and i admit to thinking my husband could keep the wedding album – the fairytale had devolved into a miserable film noir by then.

Some precious belongings had to be abandoned though and I miss them still.

I took no furniture with me when we moved to the US, except for a box that was sent on, containing my grandmother’s lead crystal lamp, the only thing I wanted from my mother’s estate besides the hand-painted fruit bowl which my sister and I fought over (She won). The candelabra was magnificent: a cut glass extravanganza with the wiring (which I’d had redone from its original 1920’s job) running up the inside of the heavy, cut glass stem. The lampshade was a magnificent canopy also crafted from lead crystal carved into beautiful patterns and held in place by silver arms. When the lighbulbs were illuminated, it sent sparkling light across the room. I loved it. Clearly that couldn’t fit into a suitcase, and we didn’t qualify for anymore luggage. My husband assured me he would send it on, so I carefully packed it into a box again, along with my teddy bear from childhood and my ballet shoes (just in case no one believed this baby elephant once danced on her toes).

I so nearly baulked at carrying the photograph box all the way back to Africa, but at the last moment I panicked that he wouldn’t send things on and so I lugged a cardboard box filled with family pictures all the way through three airports and thank God I did, because in the end my carton-of-precious stayed behind in Utah and probably found its way to a yard sale or antique shop in downtown Salt Lake City. So at least I had our memories. But, if you’re rummaging through old treasures in Utah and come across a beauty like this, check its provenance. If it was found with a handmade bear, drop me a line…

You can keep the toe shoes – I don’t have the ankle strength left anyway.

I think in the end though, we decide what is important by our choices. We choose what is precious.

I chose my children. Best choice ever.

“The things which you get from your parents are valuable but the things which you earn by your blood become precious.”
― Sonal Takalkar

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