My grandson, Ian, is all grown up now. He’ll be heading off to college next school year. He’s always been an interesting young fellow. When he was still eating from a high chair he was able to name all of the planets including all of their moons. He was able to quote statistics about them as well. Over the years he has taken and interest in all sorts of things. He has a huge Lego collection and he has a propensity for miniature objects. Once while I was visiting with him in San Antonio when he was an elementary school student he asked me to stop at a roadside display of bonsai plants.
The seller had a unique group of tiny tree like plants pruned just so to resemble a tiny Japanese garden. I have to admit that I was as fascinated with the creations we saw as Ian was. I could tell that he wanted to take home one of the natural works of art but he was way too polite to ask me to purchase one for him. I glanced at the prices and decided that it was probably unwise for me to invest that much cash in an object that Ian might neglect and allow to die.
We drove away marveling at the bonsai that we had seen. In fact we talked about them for days. I finally decided that I just had to acquire one of them for Ian because I could not imagine a youngster being more taken with something. We eagerly drove where the salesman had been before only find an empty parking lot. We checked back several times until I had to return home but sadly had no luck no luck. On later trips to San Antonio I found myself looking for the bonsai display all to no avail. I never again encountered the man who had shown us his lovely and unique wares.
I searched for a reasonable substitute for Ian only to learn that the ones we had seen by the side of the road were actually being sold at an incredible bargain price. I wanted to kick myself for being so overly cautious. It would have been a great experience for Ian to tend the tiny plant and maybe even do some research into the history of bonsai plants. I imagined how such studies might lead to learning ever more about Japanese culture and maybe even a trip to that interesting country one day. Instead I knew that I had missed an incredible opportunity to introduce Ian to a tiny wonder of the world.
I suppose that I should have known better than to be so hesitant to purchase one of the plants as soon as we saw them. Over the years I have learned that it is often unwise to think too hard about buying unusual items. One of a kind objects are too often gone quickly. Surely experience should have told me that.
Long ago our family was driving through Canyon de Chelly National Monument when we encountered a Native American woman who had crafted tiny adobe homes that she was selling from the hood of her car. They were painstakingly detailed with roofs that lift up to show a little wonderland inside. There were woven rugs, pottery and a wood burning stove in the house. It was one of the loveliest things I have ever seen. The artist who had made it wanted thirty five dollars for the miniature at a time when that was an enormous amount of money. Somehow though I just knew that I would be angry with myself if I left her craftsmanship behind. We put our money together and came up with the cash we needed to pay her. I have never ever regretted that buy. I still have that little house and it is one of the most remarkable treasures in my home.
My daughter often used to tell me that when I saw a really good thing I needed to grab it up. I never have spent thousands or even hundreds of dollars on a whim, but there have been unique items that I somehow knew I needed to buy immediately or be regretful later. Whenever I got cold feet and left such things behind I found myself feeling a strong sense of remorse. Some collectables are so wonderful that they instantly evoke the most incredible memories and even stories. They create a kind of bond with time. I have many such things from my travels. None of them are overly expensive, but all of them are priceless to me.
A great find does not have to be extravagant. There was a particular trip when we took our little girls to Taos, New Mexico. We were camping in a tent and forced to travel on a very tight budget. We decided to have a contest to see who would find the best souvenir from the market that cost only five dollars or less. I bought a bracelet made of shells that I thought was fairly good, but my eldest daughter, Maryellen, found a handmade pottery cup with the loveliest colors. She won the contest hands town and her prize was knowing that she had the most discerning eye of all of us. She still has that cup to this day. She holds pens and pencils in it on her desk. It is probably forty years old and it looks as wonderful as it did when it was brand new. Best of all we all smile when we think of that trip that we shared.
There are great finds out in the world, objects that attract us and reminds us of good times we have spent with others. We would do well to go ahead and buy the things that catch our eye when we have the wherewithal to do so. A postcard or a piece of blown glass, a trinket or a painting that comes from our travels or a fun time will be special to us for years to come. We’d do well not to pass up those items that make us smile. Seize the day. Buy the bonsai.