Coal black hair, big brown eyes, and a smile that could melt your heart. All in a package less than three feet tall.
As I watched her sleep, I fought to overcome the urge to pick her up and squeeze her as if she were a little teddy bear.
Then without notice, it suddenly happened.
She moved slightly and her eyes opened. She looked slowly around the room and her lips twisted into a little smirk, sending a silent message that total chaos was about to be unleashed upon my peaceful household.
She rolled off of the couch and living terror was on the move.
The two Persian Cats were the first to see her. You could hear their screams as their claws scratched the tile floors, trying to gain traction in their attempt to flee for their lives.
Even my wife’s dog, that happened to be the dumbest animal in the world, tried to escape, but only managed to slide into an end table as he attempted a high speed 90-degree turn out of the living room.
With her little legs moving as fast as possible, she was in full pursuit.
She flew past the dog in the hallway as he unsuccessfully tried to increase his momentum in a feeble attempt to avoid the wrath of evil that was about to befall him.
Animal instinct told him it was his time to die. But, to his surprise, she ignored him and continued at full speed toward the stairway.
At that moment her sole purpose in life was to spend another afternoon tormenting the feline members of our family.
As she knocked over the Ficus tree at the top of the stairs, the screams of the cats and her high-pitched laughter filled the air. It was going to be a long afternoon.
Her name was Courtney and she was the love of our life, our first granddaughter.
She was capable of destroying a bowling ball and yet could bring so much joy into our lives within the same moment.
Her mother and father both worked and Nana, her grandmother and my beautiful wife, thought it would be a great idea for her to stay with us during the day. What the hell was she thinking?
When her baby teeth came in she had a small gap between her two front teeth.
She would look up at me with those big brown eyes and smile, showing her upper teeth. She looked just like a baby rabbit.
Thus there was no other choice. “Courtney” wouldn’t work for me. Her name would forever be “Thumper.”
Clinging to the top of the master bedroom drapes, the cats still trembled in fear.
After a few moments of trying to knock them off of their perch by throwing decorative pillows retrieved from the bed, she soon lost interest and decided the cats could live one more day.
Unlike most children, with the exception of 30 minutes a day when the world had to stop while she watched that stupid purple dinosaur on television, Thumper was not really interested in toys or TV.
These things involved having to sit in one place for more than two or three minutes, which was totally unacceptable.
I began to think she was part Great White Shark and must continuously move within her environment or die. Not from lack of oxygen, as a non-moving shark would perish, but from the sheer boredom of sitting in one position for more than 10 seconds at a time.
Strolling down the stairs, while dragging her dirty little hands along the freshly painted white wall, she was in search of other forms of entertainment.
She moved toward the kitchen and her “cabinet drawer,” which was filled with plastic glasses, Tupperware containers, and assorted plastic spoons.
Needless to say these items created a massive mess when emptied out onto the kitchen floor, which was exactly what she did with the contents of the drawer on a daily basis.
But it did occupy her for up to 30 minutes at a time, which was a great relief to everyone in the house, especially the animals.
After the ritual of emptying her drawer onto the floor, on this day she did something totally out of character. She picked up an old plastic spoon and requested to go outside to play.
Under Nana’s guidance, they went into the front yard where Thumper sat down in the flowerbed and started digging with her big plastic spoon.
In shock, Nana watched as she sat in one place for several hours, digging a hole in the dirt.
Nana asked why she was digging the hole and she responded that she was looking for treasure.
A little girl, a plastic spoon, and a dirt flowerbed did not result in a large nor deep hole that day.
Just a small hole that had occupied her for hours. It was amazing.
The next morning she arrived, in her normal attire, which consisted of her pajamas and the favorite article of clothing, a red, knit hat her Nana had given her.
She was fully rested and in maximum speed mode.
After Nana fed her breakfast, she went to her kitchen drawer, picked out her plastic spoon, and it was back to the flowerbed.
Other than interruptions for lunch, an afternoon nap, and a mandatory break to watch Barney on television, she spent most of the day digging in her hole, about six inches deeper now.
This process continued every day for the rest of the week.
The weekend came and my wife and I enjoyed our peaceful Saturday by going to a few garage sales.
At one of the sales, while looking over the normal assortment of junk we really didn’t need, I saw an old, beat up brass box at the back edge of one of the tables.
The box had a few dints and dings. It was badly discolored and had an ugly green patina on it.
To give you and idea how bad it looked, I purchased it for the sale price of 25 cents.
After we finished our garage sale expedition for the day, we returned home to enjoy the peace and tranquility of a quiet day by ourselves.
Later that day I got into my small coin collection and retrieved a number of older coins, which I placed inside of the ugly brass box.
I then added a few “precious” jewels, consisting of loose Cubic Zirconia and imitation gemstones.
A few pieces of old costume jewelry finished the treasure collection and the box lid was closed.
Now to the Treasure Pit. I went to the front yard and located the spot where Thumper had been digging for the past week.
By this time the hole was approximately 12 inches in diameter and roughly 18 inches deep, which was actually approaching the maximum depth of the reach of her little arm.
I carefully dug out another eight or so inches of dirt and placed the brass box in the bottom of the hole. I then covered the box with about six inches of dirt.
Monday morning came and Thumper headed for her dig site.
She spent most of the day digging in the hole, adding approximately four inches to her total depth that day.
Tuesday morning arrived and she was back at it again, determined to find her treasure.
After an hour or so, my wife heard a blood-curdling scream and saw Thumper running toward her.
In her dirt encrusted little hands she was holding the old brass box. She could hardly talk.
She jumped up and down, she screamed, she laughed, and ran in circles around the yard.
To say the least, she was excited.
After she calmed down enough to talk, Nana asked her what was wrong.
She said she had found a treasure of diamonds and money.
At this point in her young life, Thumper had experienced what most people would call a really good day for a treasure hunter.
Thumper is now 20-years-old and a college student with plans to become a schoolteacher.
She is beautiful, caring, and, if you can believe it, a very quiet young lady.
She also still has her red, knit Nana hat. I believe the hat is scheduled to be handed down to her daughter some day, when the time comes for her to start her own family.
And, yes, the old brass treasure box still sets on her bedroom dresser.
I can truly say that giving a little girl a childhood memory she has never forgotten was one of the best days of my life.
Her memory of the day she found a real treasure.
To the best of my knowledge no one has ever told her how her treasure got into that hole.
She may still believe it was buried there by real pirates and that she found it all by herself.
At least I hope she does.
We love you Thumper and we are so proud of you.
I hope you have an amazing life because, of all of the things on this earth, you are our one of our greatest treasures.
Author’s personal experiences.