My Irreplaceable Treasure 2


The next morning, after breakfast, I did a geography lesson and then Mother said I could go downstairs and play in the boat. I rowed once around the down-stairs, avoiding the mess of timbers in the hall where the terrible accident had occurred. The books had begun to sink. I stared down into the dark water and could see nothing. It was right then that I got the idea.

I made a hook from a wire coathanger(衣架) and carefully fastened it to a weighted line. Then I let it sink and began to drag it slowly back and forth. I spent the next hour or so moving the boat and dragging my line--hoping to find pieces of my mother's lost treasure. But time after time the line came up empty.

As the water rose day after day, I continued trying to recover some remnant(剩余) of my mother's broken china. Soon, however, the water inside had risen to the stairway landing. On the day water covered the gutters outside, my father decided we would have to seek shelter in the tents on the hill. A powerboat was to pick us up that afternoon. We would leave by the porch roof.

I spent the morning hurriedly securing things in my room. Then I got into my rowboat for the last time. I dragged my line through the water. Nothing. After some time I heard my parents calling, so I headed back toward the stairway. Just as I made the last turn, I snagged something.

Holding my breath, I slowly raised my catch to the surface. As the dark water drained from it, I could make out the bright roses and gold leaf design. It seemed dazzling to me. I had found the gravy boat from my mother's china service. My line had caught on a small chip in the lip.

My father called down to me again. "This is serious business," he said. "Let's go." So I stowed the treasure in my jacket and rowed(划船) as fast as I could to the stair landing.

The powerboat picked us up and headed to higher ground. It began to rain, and for the first time I was really afraid. The water might rise forever, might cover the whole valley, the trees, even the hills.

By the time we were settled in a Red Cross tent, we were worn out. Father had gone off to care for sick people, and Mother sat on my cot with her arm around my shoulder. She smiled at me, if you can call it that. Then I reached under my pillow and took out the gravy boat.

She looked at it, then at me. Then she took it in her hands and held it for a long time. She was very quiet, just sitting, gazing at the gravy boat. She seemed both close to me and also very far away, as though she was remembering. I don't know what she was thinking, but she pulled me into her arms and held me tight.

We lived in the tent for weeks, cold and often hungry. As the flood crested, an oil slick caught fire and burned our house down to the waterline. We never went back. Instead, we moved to a house near Cincinnati, far from the river.

By Easter we were settled in, and we celebrated that special Sunday with a feast. While Dad carved the lamb, Mother went into the kitchen and returned with the gravy boat. She held my gift for a moment as though it was something unspeakably precious. Then, smiling at me, she placed it gently on the table. I said to myself right then that nothing would ever happen to that gravy boat as long as I lived.

And nothing ever has. Now I use the gravy boat just as she had, taking it carefully from the shelf and filling it just as she did with dark, rich turkey gravy for family dinners and other special occasions. When guests ask about the curious old dish, I sometimes tell the story of how I fished it from the river in our house.

But beyond the events of the flood, the gravy boat is a treasure that connects me to the people and the places of my past. Mother tried to explain, and now I understand. It is not the object so much as the connection that I cherish. That little porcelain boat, chipped and worn with age, keeps me in touch--just as she said it would--with her life, her joy and her love.