Twenty six years ago, a grandma in a floppy hat was shopping In a little seaside town in Spain.
She wandered among the colorful stalls, looking for just the perfect beach toy for her newest grandson. She paused outside the toy shop where buckets and spades swung cheerfully in the Spanish sun and fishing nets stood to attention. And there, on the shelf, sat a little blue and yellow bucket, waiting patiently to be bought.
The grandma in the floppy hat picked the bucket up. It was a hippopotamus, whose nostrils made the perfect watering can. And she bought it for her little grandson.
That was the day the hippo bucket joined our family… just a little plastic toy that James, my son, loved to play with. Every day of our two week holiday in Spain, he would scoop up the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea and pour them out onto the golden sand. Wherever James went, the hippo bucket went too. On the beach, in the pool, in the bath tub, the little hippo bucket accompanied him everywhere.
We snapped the picture of his little blonde head as he bent over the bucket, gripped the handle in his chubby fingers, and poured water from its nostrils.
Somehow, we made room in our suitcase to fly that bucket home to England. And for the next ten years, whenever we went on holiday to Devon, the hippo bucket came with us.
One day a big truck came to our home and delivered twenty empty boxes. We were emigrating to America and our sons were given just one box each, in which to pack their toys and games.
Choose wisely, we told them. Take with you only what is precious.
Into James’ box went the blue and yellow hippo bucket, where it sailed four thousand long miles across the Atlantic Ocean, on its way to our new home in Michigan.
And for the next twelve years it lay in that box, along with legos, and teddy bears, and a little yellow robot.
Until one day James had a son. And when that son was three years old, the hippo bucket came out of the box.
Now it’s my little grandson who plays with it on the beach, who bends his blonde head over the bucket, who holds it with his chubby hand, and pours water from its nostrils.
And suddenly I am the grandma in the floppy hat, my blonde haired son has become the father, and his smiling grandma who flew with us to Spain lies in a quiet graveyard in England.
Take with you only what is precious. My words echo back to me.
And even though oceans may separate; even though the waves of time roll incessantly in, erasing our footprints and stealing our yesterdays, I’m holding on to those precious memories and taking them with me…
And when I close my eyes, or watch my grandson play, I can still see that little blonde head, and his grandma on the beach, as the waves roll in on the shore.
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Dr Seuss