By Joe Rector

I have a favorite coffee cup. It was originally a gift for Amy for her birthday or Christmas but proved to be too bulky for her. I took it over, and for years, it’s traveled miles on trips and sat on the ground as I worked in the yard or at the golf course. The cup no longer has a smooth, shiny surface, and the lid is difficult to screw on. The cover for the opening flaps instead of seals. Still, I love that cup. It keeps coffee hot from early in the morning until midafternoon. Amy says the thing is disgusting and worn out, but I won’t give it up. Some things we have are just too special to toss in the trash.

On the top shelf in my closet, two teddy bears sit in a plastic bag. One is brown. It stands upright with its front legs stretched out as if it’s offering a hug. Years ago, the bear’s tail had a small box sewn inside that gave a squeak when it was squeezed. Now, it crunches into smaller pieces. This bear was given to me soon after I was born.

The other toy is black and looks more like a real animal. It was a present from my mother’s best friend when Jim and I were somewhere around 4 years old. It was stiff and lacked the cuddliness of the other bear. Still, both of the stuffed animals had places on my bed. I could toss them in the trash because both have had enough loving over my childhood to make them unfit for a small child. Everyone knows that those bears are staying put, even though I’ll never remove them from that shelf. They have too many memories for me to throw them out.

In the hall closet hangs a faded gold-colored button-up sweater. The front sports a large blue “K,” and a football is on the left upper sleeve. The cuffs are ragged from wear and age. I received that sweater in 1968. My letter sweater had an extra feature: a designation as a manager. Yes, sadly, my letter sweater was earned as a manager for the football team. However, it came with plenty of sacrifice. I washed towels and uniforms in the old gym and toted bags of wet articles on my shoulder to the field house where the dryer was located. I broke an ankle during a game against Catholic High School. My cleats stuck in the mud as a defensive end ran into me on his way out of the game. I wore that sweater with as much pride as any player because I put in plenty of work and time that season. A look at it brings back some of the best and worst times I experienced in high school.

For years, my 1987 Pathfinder was parked under one side of the carport. A few months ago, I gave that vehicle to my son and teased him by saying that he was receiving his inheritance early. It’s the best vehicle I’ve ever had. That Pathfinder took Dallas and me to baseball practices and games from T-Ball through high school. Its interior is worn, and the smell it emits during summers is not so pleasant. Yet, Dallas and I love that car and the celebrations, disappointments, and serious talks that we experienced in it.

All of us have special items that we can’t give up. They represent so much of the years that have passed. Keeping old, raggedy things isn’t a bad thing. It is a sign that we have feelings, whether good or bad, that we never want to lose. What is your favorite keepsake?