We drew maps with ballpoint pens and copper-brown markers. Dashed lines marked the route. “X”s pinpointed anticipated treasure.
This was our first Treasure Hunt of the season, for it was the warmest in Iowa so far this year. So eager we were, that we each made our own treasure map. Mom’s route garnered the rapt attention of her pint-sized hunters because it held real hope of treasure at X-marked spots.
What would they find at journey’s end?
Anna, 4, ushered in our hunt with a ceremonial opening of the deck door, a passageway uncrossed for months. With her own map in hand, she uttered the fiercest of pirate cries: “This way, captains! I know where the treasure is!”
The Great Treasure Hunt of 2009 began with the sun setting over spruce trees, the squish-squish of soggy sod, the smell of spring’s doorstep … and the pained cries from my children.
“STOP! I said STOP!” Anna cried. “You’re supposed to follow my map. We’re going to the Berry Blossom Tree and the Lightning McQueen Desert! STOP it, you guys!”
“No, Anna!” Lydia retorted. “We’re going over HERE! Don’t you know anything?”
Then came complaints of chills, gopher holes large enough to swallow small children (Were anacondas hibernating in the yard?), and a patch of thistles and cockleburrs that clung to our socks and pantlegs.
For Lydia, the journey through Thistle Hollow was especially painful: she was wearing flip-flops.
“Follow me,” I assured them. “I know the way through. Follow my steps. Don’t be scared, girls.”
We made it through the prickly patch, to the refuge of evergreens, nearing the promise of treasure at the X. Along the way, we picked up nature-made treasures for our buckets: rocks, muddy corn cobs, sticks, blue-green spruce sprigs.
We passed through Secret Entrance, at Gate of Red-Twigged Dogwoods, to our favorite place: Sunset Overlook.
Here, on the distant side of the dogwoods, we grabbed hold of a treasure bigger than our buckets. We saw our church, there on the western horizon, under bluish-pink light that seemed more fitting for sunrise than sunset.
Lydia stepped flip-flopped feet on snow, the last patch in the yard. A reminder of what was gone … and what was to come in its place.
After a game of hopscotch and “chalk-rock” drawings, the last X beckoned. The final treasure, at last? In the garage, atop the freezer, their reward waited: A Hershey’s bar and M&Ms.
I asked the girls: What was your favorite part?
The candy was good, they said, but the hunt was even better.
I’ve heard the saying: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I suppose life is a lot of both. We’re headed for a Place, the Best Place, but we’re also on a journey. What if I had only the destination in mind, at the expense of missing the journey? Would I have missed the point of the journey?
Would I have missed the lesson found in the struggle over which map to follow?
Would I have missed the value of searching for lost treasure? Or the joy in finding it in the simplest things?