Ten Things I Value Most

Canadian Passport
This is one of them! Image via Wikipedia

Having recently gone through all my Mom’s things, fast, as required to move her into a nursing home, I’ve been thinking much harder about what possessions I value most, and why.

I was awed, and saddened and humbled, by my Mom’s willingness to sort through soft red leather boots and Japanese prints and clothes and say “Toss!”, knowing there was simply no room in her new room and no extra storage space there.

So I returned home to my New York one-bedroom apartment and started thinking hard about what I value most, physically, and why:

Three small bears:

One is tiny, the height of my thumb, a Steiff bear in black and white with moveable arms and legs. I went off to boarding school at the age of eight, and every Sunday, was trotted off to church. I couldn’t stand it, so this dear small bear nestled nicely in my pocket or sat between the prayer books and hymnals in the shelf behind the pew. He kept me sane.

The small white bear is someone who’s been in my life as long as I can remember. He is very worn, his fur mostly gone, and has a quizzical expression I treasure, and often share. He’s been all over the world with me, stuffed uncomplainingly into a pocket of a suitcase, delighting and amusing chambermaids — who know I’m older than five.

The soapstone bear, aka Spring Bear, was carved in an Arctic village for me by an Inuit man my father met while making a film there. He fits into the palm of my hand and has a lovely shy aspect to him. I’ve had him since I was little, and he always made me deeply curious about the Arctic and all the people out there waiting for me to meet.

My passport

Indispensable. I’ve been traveling across borders since I was an infant and my parents drove from Vancouver, Canada (my birthplace) to Mexico (where I’ve since visited many times.) On any given day, I can easily misplace my cellphone or hairbrush but I always know exactly where my passport is and when it expires. Passport = freedom!

My camera

I started shooting when I was about 15, and wanted to become a professional photographer. A family friend loaned me his Pentax SLR and, while a high school senior, I sold three color photos to Toronto Calendar magazine. I realized early I had talent, and could sell it into a competitive marketplace. Cool! I’ve since had my photos published by Time, The Washington Post, New York Times and others. Some of my most precious items are the photos I’ve taken, whether the Eiffel tower under glass (in a Paris department store) or the Rockies at dawn. I use a Canon G7, digital.

My pen

I love my alumunim Lamy fountain pen, and its ink cartridges in blue, black and purple. As a writer, I always need a pen handy. I love how sensual and beautiful even the most mundane writing — the phone bill! — can be with a nice pen.


These are my number one style signifier: silk, cashmere, wool, cotton, linen. I am rarely, in any season, without a colorful muffler or scarf of some kind. Faves include a leopard-print linen (bought at Nordstrom), two Hermes carres (Christmas gifts) and four crinkled silk mufflers so long and wide they double as shawls, in cream, dark brown, fuchsia and ashes of roses. (Banana Republic.)


I have a tradition of buying jewelry to commemorate special occasions, so have rings I bought for my 26th. birthday (Montreal, antique cameo and marcasite) and a sterling one (Saks, Barry Kieselstein Cord, on sale), I giddily purchased the day I sold my first book. I love the heart-shaped pearl and sapphire ring my mom gave me many years ago, the one I’d already spotted in a favorite store and never told her I loved. She knew! On the most stressful days, I armor up with a few of them.

Antique Textiles

This started with my Mom, who traveled the world alone for many years. She came home with mantas, molas and exquisite cashmere Indian shawls, the original pashminas. Her love for these materials ignited mine, and I now buy early textiles whenever I can find them, wearing some,  and using others to make throw pillows. These include an orange-and-cream crane-printed Japanese silk obi sash, 1930s blue and white check linen found in a Paris flea market and 19th. century paisley wool shawls, both printed and woven.


I love to cook! Having happy people eating food around our table is such a pleasure. I knew the sweetie and I had a shot (now 11 years together) when we started dating and had the same, fantastic cookbook, Bistro Cooking.

What are some of the items you most treasure?


19 thoughts on “Ten Things I Value Most

  1. What a warm and lovely post – i wrote something the other day about my 40 something year old panda and knitted blanket (will find the link and drop it by you). Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment 🙂

    1. Oooh, I’d love to read that!

      What is it about things made of soft cotton or wool that become so intimately bound up with us? Much as I love my passport, camera and pen, they are never as comforting or cuddly as the small white bear…

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. What a heart warming post. I have a sari of my Mum’s that was giving to her when she became a teenager in Kenya. I really value this as I have a fascination with saris.
    This has really made me think about what my list would be.
    Thank you.

    1. I think we all have things like this — but we don’t always recognize them until it’s too late.

      My mother loved India and gave me some of her exquisite Indian shawls and silk sari fabric.

  3. Pingback: Gathering Valuable Experiences « Woman Wielding Words

    1. Great list! Tell me about the stones…? The helmet for….?

      We have a Kevlar camo vest (!) the sweetie wore while working as a photographer in Bosnia. I think journos have especially odd things.

      1. The stones are from a collection a friend had (my “second” mother, which doesn’t do her justice). She died when I was 26, and I inherited them –Lee used to get a lot of peace from holding them, as I do now.

        The helmet? Not a war story, at least of the traditional kind–I use it when riding a motorbike on the mad streets of Ho Chi Minh City. I love my helmet.

  4. BTW, passport should be in there. My previous one had all kinds of stamps from places I was proud to have traveled (and with bigger EU, you no longer get those stamps). I came home one afternoon and my five-month-old puppy was joyously turning it into confetti. When I called the guy at the embassy to tell him what happened and order a new one, he laughed a big laugh: “Your dog ate your passport?!!”
    But, still have that one.

  5. Patti, I call these women “other mothers” — I had one and think many of us do, but they rarely get acknowledged publicly. I’ve yet to visit VietNam but you’re making me very curious!

    I keep all my old passports, for the same reason…not to mention (shriek) decades-old pix of me.

  6. I’m envious of your Canadian passport – after three years of school in Edmonton, I used to hope I’d find a nice Canadian boy to marry so I could apply for one of those.

    One of my favorite possessions is a wool blanket I purchased in Ireland at a monastery. It is so soft and smells wonderful. When I wrap up in it, I’m reminded of a the peaceful Irish countryside.

    1. My sweetie and I joke (sort of) that he’s marrying me for my Canadian passport (he’s American) and I for his pension. In fact, the passport I really crave (and need to apply for) is EU, thanks to my Irish grandfather, so we can retire to France.

      The blanket sounds lovely. I can picture it and how comforting it is!

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