Treasures That Don't Tarnish or Daddy Knows Gandalf!!

by Phil Dupuis

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I must confess this story has a rather odd beginning. It began as a father trying to save face with his two children. Only later did it become an adventure that we still reminisce about when we are telling tales of family lore.

Simon was six and Heather, four. Like all kids that age, their father's going out to work each day had an air of mystery about it. I liked that. Actually I cultivated it to some degree. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I told them that I was spending my days as an undercover spy or a test pilot. I would just mention from time to time that, in my otherwise banal day, I met some interesting people who had become my good friends. One of these was Gandalph the wizard. (So I wasn't very original, but you must remember I was working on the fly most of the time.) My kids were quite familiar with Gandalph and his ways having been read the 'Lord of the Rings' numerous times.

Gandalph, I would report, dropped by unannounced occasionally to let me know what was going on in the world of good and evil and to pass on a little advice. Well, this went on for some time until some creeping skepticism started to enter the minds of my little ones. They started to ask for some physical evidence that would prove my magical friend really existed. It gave me an idea.

One night I mentioned that I had once again met the enchanted one and he had given me something to show them. Ah, now I had their attention! Proof that Dad had not totally lost his mind. Out of my briefcase I produced a rolled up parchment. They eagerly unfurled it to discover that in their trembling hands they held a map — not just any map, but a real live treasure map!

The map looked authentic enough. It had all the appearance of being centuries old. The parchment was dog-eared in the corners, brittle to the touch and in various places stained, as if passed through a thousand hands. (This little part of the adventure was my wife's doing. The night before she soaked a piece of parchment in some cold tea giving the paper its brown mottled look. Once dried the tea also made the paper stiff and slightly brittle.) The map was drawn in india ink and in addition to complex directions had illustrations of forests, hills and of course, the possible location of dragon lairs.

I told the kids that Gandalph wanted them to have the map because the treasure happened to be in the forest right near our house and that he could think of no other kids more deserving of the treasure. Getting the kids to bed that night was no easy chore. They couldn't wait to set out to seek their fortunes — dragons or no dragons.

When morning came the planning began. There were prayers to be said, food to pack and weapons to collect. The menu wasn't exactly medieval — peanut butter, potato chips and some fruity libations. The weapons, however, were quite appropriate for the quest that lay ahead. Both donned their best wooden swords and Simon took along his trusty cub knife, compass and of course a shovel.

But what about the treasure, you ask? Well, while the kids were dreaming about what they would do with their new found wealth, Dad and Mom were busy assembling the bounty. We found an empty wooden box and filled it with some large foreign coins and assorted costume jewelry collected from friends and relatives for just this purpose. Then I went out flashlight in hand and buried the treasure according to the directions on the map. I also marked spots along the route with large Xs on the ground to indicate to our treasure hunters they were on the right track.

Early in the morning, laden down with provisions and weapons our little adventurers set off with Mom following close behind. Mom convinced them that she might be useful when it came to preparing lunch and assured them that she would leave any dragon slaying to their more skilled hands. Although the kids had played in this forest hundreds of times before, on this day it became a different world for them. It was now a place full of wonder, fraught with unknown dangers. And just to add to the excitement, Mom stopped occasionally en route and said, 'What was that? I thought I heard something.' Immediately they drew their swords and peered through the trees for any signs of dragon. Mom would then say, in a rather unconvincing way, 'Oh, I guess it was nothing.' The swords never did go back into their homemade scabbards.

While the treasure was not really hidden far into the forest, the route dictated by the map meandered all over, making it hard going for little legs. Finding no evidence that they were on the right track, our two fortune seekers began to doubt the credibility of the map and their Dad. After awhile, Mom suggested they stop to rest and eat. Reluctantly the intrepid twosome took out their provisions and started to eat. When they finished they mustered up their last remaining hope and courage and set off again.

It was shortly thereafter that Heather came across the first X. All their doubts vanished instantly as she yelled for the others to come and see what she had found. With renewed eagerness they marched on ever more alert. If the markings were true so might be the presence of dragons. More Xs appeared as they got closer and closer to the treasure.

Finally they arrived at a large oak tree, just like the one marked on the map. Following the directions they counted out paces and, with their little hearts pounding, started digging frantically. Before long they heard the sound they had been dreaming about, the sound of a shovel hitting wood. With trembling hands they pulled the box from the hole and rested it on a nearby treestump. Both looked at each other almost afraid to open it. Finally Simon, as the older of the two, lifted the lid. Their eyes widened with absolute wonder as they revealed the contents of the box. There were pearl necklaces, gold bracelets and hundreds of coins of various sizes and colours.

When they arrived home, they burst through the door and attempted through their excitement to tell me all about their adventure. We all sat around on the floor and inspected the treasure as they told over again and again the story of finding Gandalph's treasure in the forest.

Well, that grand adventure took place almost eleven years ago. My kids are older now and certainly getting wiser every day. I know that they came in the years following to discover that the treasure was not real and that the map was not really the handiwork of Gandalph, but they never told me. The simple reason for this, I believe, is that they also had discovered that there is something even more valuable that pearl necklaces and gold bracelets and they are the memories that came out of that day — golden memories that will never tarnish with time.

Simon, I should mention, kept the treasure box on his dresser for many years, putting in all the other treasures he found through his life travels.

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