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Tin Box

By Staff | Aug 5, 2015

Recently a story in the news told of treasure hunters in Florida finding gold from a sunken ship that was lost for over two-hundred years ago. A treasure, that had lain on the bottom of the ocean long forgotten by anyone, but those who believed it was there.

Gold and jewels are the kind of treasures adventure novels are written about. It is unlikely that any of us will ever find a treasure that is valued in the millions. But, treasure cannot always be judged by their commercial value. Sometime treasures are discovered when we find something lost and forgotten. Have you ever cleaned the garage or basement and there on a shelf you find something valuable to you. A treasure that is not assessed by its value, but by the memories it brings to you.

A few months back, Mary and I returned to her grandparent’s farm in Tennessee. A trip that is filled with memories from her childhood. She told me about when her aunt made homemade biscuits. The only recipe she was kept in her head. She called them cat head biscuits. That’s because they were the size of a cat’s head.

Her grandmother wore aprons when she cooked. It wasn’t long ago the aprons were a standard piece of clothing when cooking. Most likely that apron her grandmother wore was homemade. Stitched on a treadle machine and finished with a hand needle and thread. All long forgotten and gone in the passing of time.

That was until our trip back to her grandparent’s farm this spring. The man who owns part of farm uses the old house as a place to store things. He has removed many of the fixtures in the house to make it easier to get things in and out.

One day, he was moving an old cabinet and in behind he found a small tin box. You know the kind that Christmas candy or cookies use to come in. Those tin boxes were as useful long after the candies and cookies were gone. They were used as a place to store small things before the days of Tupperware. This was such a box that belonged to her grandmother.

If you were to see this box sitting on a table at a yard sale with a price of one dollar you would not give it a second glance. Come by later in the day and the price would be marked down to 25 cents. Still the ugly little box is left without a new owner. By the end of the sale the price is marked out and it simply says, Free.

This was such a box. The man handed it to Mary and told her it was her grandmothers. That in itself makes it kind of an antique. You see, Mary’s grandmother has been gone for nearly forty-five years. Most likely it has been unopened since she passed away.

The unremarkable tin box was once bright and shiny with white flowers on the lid. Those flowers are fading to dull gray imagines that you have to use you imagination to know what they once were. The box is not rusty or dirty. It is just long faded from it once new luster.

She opened the box to see what her grandmother kept in such a secure place. It was her sewing box. It was filled with the things you would expect to find, such as partly used spools of thread. The spools were made of wood and still had thread wound around them just like the day it was placed there. Others had used thread that her grandmother must have wanted to save from another job. What’s that old saying, “Waste not, want not”

There was also an assortment of buttons, most lying in the bottom of the tin box. On a small white card was one lonely dark blue button. The card once had four attached. They looked like buttons that would be used to close a coat against the winter winds. The cards name for the buttons was, le chic, guaranteed washable and only 25 cents.

Also, among the things were two measuring tapes. Each one was rolled up into a neat little coil. On the outside was measured inches. On the inside, instructions for mail order clothes. “The services of a tailor are not required in taking your measurements. Any member of your family or a friend can take your measurements by simply following the instructions printed on the order form.” That was before Amazon made it so easy to order anything.

There was an assortment of zippers removed from old clothes. Saved to be recycled and used another day. Pins and needles of different sizes stuck in a piece of soft foam. Put there waiting for the next time they were needed. That was forty-five years ago.

There was also a unique item in the box. It was carved from a piece of cedar. It has a place that looks like someone’s finger would fit neatly into it when used. I am guessing, it was used to protect a finger from being cut by thread when working on something heavy. Whatever it is, it must have been made by Mary’s Grandfather, who loved to whittle on the aromatic wood.

When I look into the old box, I can imagine her grandparents sitting in their living room. Her grandfather whittling on a piece of red cedar, watching Andy and Barney on an old black and white TV with rabbit ears. On the other side of the room, her grandmother sat repairing bibbed overalls that were torn while mending fence. Between them a coal stove in the middle of the room, keeping the house warm through the cold mountain winters. This old metal box was part of those days long gone. Now it has been passed on to Mary to remember those days with her grandparents.

Treasure can be gold or jewels lost long ago. Treasure can be finding an arrow head along the Ohio River. Treasure can be jar of coins buried long ago by some kid who moved away and forgot the jar of carefully collected pennies. It also can be an old tin box with bits of thread, buttons and measuring tapes. What value can you give to such a thing? Monetarily it has no value. But, the memories it brings back cannot be measured with gold or jewels. The people and things we remember from our youth can often be a treasure that brings a smile to our faces as we all remember Through the Lens.