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A few of my favorite things.

Each of us has a litany of favorite things. You know one when you see it, hear it, smell or touch it. A close encounter is characterized by a sudden mood swing to lightheartedness, rich feelings of delight, of renewal, by a desire to pause and savor once again Our favorite things are little miracles that pop up like summer mushrooms after a big rain on the dandelion-bedecked backyards of our lives. They're ticks off the checklist of wonders and marvels we've known. Just as we are about to morph permanently into stodgy old stinkpots, we stumble across one of those favorite things. Our faces light up. We get a reprieve.

Some of our readers wrote to tell us about their favorite items and objects.

I have a new favorite thing. It is a little frog figurine, brightly enameled to resemble cloisonne, with faux ruby eyes that glitter as they pick up the light. Faux rubies, faux cloisonne, faux frog; yet, for all this "fauxness," I can't help but see him in an animistic sort of way. I talk to him. He makes me smile. I don't know what he is under his enamel. He is heavy and smooth, like brass--hardly like a real frog at all. He is hinged at the tail. When his mouth is opened, his whole top side goes with it, revealing a little cache for holding something tiny. A little faux fly maybe?

What first caught my fancy was the sparkle of his ruby-red eyes. He was sitting in a jewelry display case at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It was love at first sight. Though I am not generally an impulse buyer, especially of knickknacks over a certain low price, he had me hooked. So I brought him home with me.

I look at him, all glittery and shiny, my little faux frog, and I am reminded of the real thing. My real favorite thing is the real thing, the frog. The real frog is not hard and smooth, but soft belly and rough warts. The real eyes are not clear red and faceted, but bulging black orbs flanked on either side by lids that part and meet again at median eyeball.

The real frog has a sticky, darting, goodbye fly" tongue and springy legs to plop him posthaste into the pond.

My little faux frog is made real by memories: of tadpoles in a huge puddle growing their little froggy legs; of frogs in the grass, and frogs in the road; of my front porch, of summer evening visitors, victims in the end to my "frog dog." But most of all, my little faux frog comes to life in memories of long gone summer days. Here he is a warty, squishy little fellow that, if you pick him up, will pee all over you and cause you to dance with squeals of childhood horror and delight.


Fuquay-Varina, N.C.

A long time ago my parents gave me a wristwatch as a graduation gift.

The face is small and the numbers are petite and very different from today's watches with large faces and oversize numbers. Through the years the gold band has tarnished. Recently, I asked a jeweler if it is reparable. The jeweler said the required parts are not made today. Although I do not wear it, it has a special meaning for me. I keep it in a little white box and every now and then take it out to admire it and remember my parents' love. Someday I will let go of it. Until then, I continue to cherish it.

In my mind's eye, I see my mother sitting at the dining room table writing to me weekly or every other week. Her letters kept me updated with the family and all its activities. Often the letters were tucked into "thinking of you" cards, birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas cards, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick, St. Joseph and Easter cards. She was faithful in writing until she was prevented by illness. During the years, I saved each and every card. I did not have the heart to destroy them. Instead, each found its way into a shoebox. Over the years, three shoeboxes of her letters and cards accumulated.

Before I moved in the late 1990s, I decided to streamline my personal possessions including the letters. One sunny afternoon, I read each letter and card. The difficult part finally arrived: Which letters and cards would I keep and which ones would be destroyed? As the letters were read, they landed either into the keep or recycle pile. Those I kept do not fill a shoebox; the remaining letters and cards are just two handfuls to remember the spirit and the writer's love.


Lisle, Ill.

I have a canvas sling chair that hangs from a branch of an old maple tree in our backyard. Whenever I can, I head out there with a book in hand. More often than not, I end up gazing in silent contemplation at the beauty around me, the majestic trees, the peace of the garden and barn, the ever-changing clouds, the birds and squirrels and the small planes overhead. This becomes my time of silent prayer, of gratitude, received grace and quiet joy. These moments nourish my soul.


Ridgefield, Conn.

My very favorite things take me to the highest mountains, down to the sea, to foreign countries, to meet old and new acquaintances, to solve murders and problems. They bring me joy.

Yes, they are my books. Some have their holiday finery on--leather and even suede. Others are beginning to fall apart; their spines breaking, the pages wanting to escape their confinement.

I have been able to do the impossible with my favorite things. Why, I even fell head over heels in love with a pope in Morris West's The Clowns of God. I was able to escape my world to so many other worlds. I read all about Dorothy Day and know we had many things in common. I delve into these friends, savor them and truly enjoy them. I will pass them on to others with the promise of their being returned. I even pick up some of them from time to time to renew an acquaintance with an old friend.

There have been times when we have been not only separated but they have been taken away from me. My husband has said a few times that I had to get rid of them for the sake of a move or for needed space.

How does one get rid of a dear friend, one who has brought me pleasure? It takes me hours to decide which are my truest favorites and those I could possibly wrench from my life. My husband takes them to our local hospital, so I am consoled in knowing there are people there who may love my favorite things as I do.

I find now that I go out of my way to buy paperbacks so that when the time comes for a thinning out, it won't be quite as painful. I have learned many lessons from my favorite things and the best part of it is that these favorite things are always being replenished.


Boca Raton, Fla.

Living in prison has taught me to appreciate favorite things from a different point of view. My life is no longer cluttered with telemarketers, grocery shopping, and the 9 to 5 rut. I no longer worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Who needs a BMW? I walk everywhere I go. I haven't driven in nine years and won't for another 12.

The clothes I wear are provided for me, so designer labels are of no concern. The only jewelry I own is a plastic digital watch. Because all nonessentials are stripped away, the word "favorite" takes on new meaning.

In my former life, ice cream would have been on my list. It didn't matter what flavor. I've never met ice cream I didn't like. Vanilla, mint chocolate chip, strawberry--it didn't matter. My favorite ice cream memories involve my little brother. He and I would hop in the car and head out for chocolate milk shakes. We'd drive around town sipping our shakes and talking. We'd talk about everything and nothing. The topic didn't matter; the time together did. Sadly, those times are over.

Now my favorite things are much different: Sunsets, cool breezes, a letter from a loved one. It's funny how things change when you become aware of your blessings.


Clarinda, Iowa

My favorite thing is my family record Bible. I have many translations but this one holds a history of our lives as well as of Christianity. There is not a single item in my home that comforts me more.

I use my Bible to study, meditate, recall memories and learn wisdom. It is a daily communication, sort of a personal liturgy; communication between my soul and my God. I can reflect on a family wedding, funeral, sacrament, celebration and feel the warmth of those I love. Loneliness does not exist with this favorite thing.

I have come to the age where collections and treasures do not hold the satisfaction that I still gel from the Bible. I am slowly giving away my treasures. Life has more meaning if you give what you care about away memory of a wedding of one of your children, or the death of a loved one. You have to let go at some point, even though it is hard.

My Bible will stay with me until I pass on, and then it will be passed on. My international teacup collection, my books, the pictures--all are gifts that can be given away. Mindful of the character of Maria von Trapp in "The Sound of Music," whose spirituality required her to take a time of prayer to discern the will of God, I too continue to discern and grow because of my Bible.


Wanatah, Ind.

"Girls in white dresses with blue sashes. Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. Silver white winters that melt into spring. These are a few of my favorite things."

This Rogers and Hammerstein song has always been a favorite, and here are some more of my favorite things: Girls dancing with pony tails bobbing and swaying. Smiling babies. Children playing. Marching bands leading parades to the strong sounds of John Philip Sousa.

The crunch of snow on a cold winter's day. The yellow, blue and orange flames of a warm fire. My wife's chocolate chip cookies. Skating on black ice on a pond. A "thank you" for a kind deed.

Playing golf or tennis on a hot summer's day. Ocean waves crashing on a sandy beach. The purr of my cat when I pat her.

The smile of a student when she learns something new. Playing games with my wife and children. The smell of warm Irish bread just out of the oven, washed down with a mug of hot tea. My family's groans and laughter when I tell a corny joke. Snowshoeing with my wife. Hot coffee with an omelet. Lamb chops with mint jelly.

Hugs from my wife and children, and from family and friends.

Being in the arms of the bride of my dreams. My children saying, "I love you" when they say goodbye. Peace and leaders who work for peace and justice.


Southampton, Mass.
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Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 20, 2007
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