A Treasure Trove Of Street Finds

UP my street (the distance of a dozen neatly spaced houses) the number of ``treasures'' that are casually strewn along the way would be surprising. If you're three or 63 years old it's pretty much the same excitement to be experienced as long as you have an explorative mind to share it. Like Victor, who visits me on occasion, while his mother pursues chores better suited to aloneness. His hand snuggles securely in mine as we walk along, and he is volubly appreciative of the wonders all about us. He misses no detail along the way, snatching up treasures like a chattering, alert magpie. ``Wait, Gocky, look what's here!'' (He has appropriated my grandson's name for me, and I love it.) He squats over a smashed matchbox car in the gutter. Half a car, really. It has no bottom, lacks wheels. The red paint is chipped. It comes apart in his eager hands.

``It's no good, dear. Toss it back. You have dozens of good cars at home.''

``But I like it, Gocky. I don't have one the same. Poppa'' (my husband Bob's grandfatherly name has also been reclaimed) ``can fix it, I betcha. Poppa can fix anything.''

I envision Bob squirming out of that confidence: ``It's just a hunk of junk, Vic. What can I do without wheels?'' His jaw will stiffen. ``Let's scrap it.''

Victor's jaw will follow suit. ``Glue it, Poppa. I don't mind no wheels. I need one like this.''

But I can't let him down. ``Okay, we'll ask Poppa to try. Maybe he can glue it on to a peg-board. You could assemble a whole peg-board decorated with your found treasures,'' I say.

It's not as pat when we find a bird's egg, broken. Still, even though we don't claim it, it's a treasure to be counted. ``That's two,'' he triumphs. The remaining half is a few steps along. But it's still two - we don't cheat, ever. ``I guess you know how val-ble a wire-band clothes pin is? Brand new, too. That's No. 3. Right?'' (Sesame Street is doing its job.) He presents it to me.

A golf tee is next. That's old hat, not worth picking up. Leave it for another, less choosy treasure-seeker, whose father doesn't win tournaments. A feather, though, becomes a definite find. ``This is from a bluejay,'' I'm informed. I verify it - definitely a sky-dyed edge outlines one side. ``How many treasures so far, Gocky? Five, I think. Do you know I already have a red card'nal and a yellow flicker feather in my Indian headband? And a black crow-feather and a seag-le?''

We've reached the turnaround on our dead-end street. The place is rampant with weeds and wildflowers. I point out green-gray lambs' ears that make fine potherbs. The wild cucumber vines intrigue him. (Victor recalls the prickly fruit we popped on the ground last autumn.) Lavender cranesbill flowers in the shade. Petals drift, float in a light breeze. A stray pumpkin vine reminds him of his brother's garden. ``Did you know that Anthony's sunflowers have hatched, Gocky? I think they'll come to the top of the v-randa.''

Immense dandelions blaze gold and turn white in the lush undergrowth. How lightly their seeds take off, how far they will travel to start new colonies, we speculate. Maybe all the way to Hartford. Or Boston. Or New York. Most seriously we examine them. I show him how to make dandelion curls. The stem juices are bitter on the tongue. He's not interested in feminine adornments. We move on. Burdock has a good start where plows turned after winter storms, their blades pushing the earth back to form hills suitable for such sturdy weeds. (We refuse to acknowledge the lovely purple burdock plants as weeds. Not when we remember the satisfaction those prickly baskets of burs made, which we filled with elderberries.)

Homeward a bit faster now, past the walnut trees, the roadside tangles of blackberry canes, the spent dog roses. Past the two halves of the one robin's egg. A young bird, probably from the first clutch, splashes in our lawn birdbath. Another politely waits his turn on a pine bough. Bob stands in the kitchen doorway. ``What's the good word?'' he calls.

``Six treasures, Poppa. And y'know what? I found this neat car you can fix. It lost its wheels, but it's awesome just the same. You can fix it. I know you can. So get that magic glue stuff out. I'll help.''

No wheels.

``Six treasures, Poppa, and this is the best one of all. Well, are you getting the glue?''

Six treasures? We count seven.

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