Why I find value in seemingly meaningless trinkets.

by Todd Foley

I carry a garage door opener on my key chain. I’ve had it for more than a decade. It’s broken, and I have no idea whose garage it opens.

I’m not a freak. I swear.

Flash back 10+ years: Gram [my maternal grandmother] had just bought a used Suzuki Samarai from a local guy on the island I grew up on. The first time she took me for a ride in her new car, I started opening different compartments to explore. When I got to the glove box, I saw something stashed in the back. It looked like a keychain.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It looks like a garage door opener,” Gram replied.

“…can I have it?”

Gram took the device from me and concluded it was broken.

“…I don’t see why not,” she said.

It hasn’t left my possession since that day. Even during my university years, it stayed in my top desk drawer. Today, it’s on my key ring.

I held on to this broken remote because it has meaning. That meaning the a memory of Gram, who was the first person to ever affirm my writing and who, during her years on this Earth, continued to encourage me along the way.

Let me tell you more about Gram.

Gram taught me a lot during the 14 years she lived in her little blue house on Lopez Island. Sometimes she taught me directly; other times I simply observed.

My earliest memories come from her home: weekend cookouts on her old brick barbecue; Fourth of July celebrations in the back yard; endless discoveries of new forts and hang-outs along the beach.

My siblings and I often rode our bikes the two-mile stretch from our house to hers, our visits usually unexpected. Yet we never put her out with our arrival. Gram kept a fully stocked cupboard of fruit-roll-ups and chips that we would enjoy while she dipped Nutter Butter cookies in peanut butter. She taught us how to snack and to enjoy our treats to the max. After the first time I saw her eat peanut butter by the spoon out of the jar, I returned home and told mom, “Gram eats peanut butter RAW!” I still eat it by the spoon to this day, and I savor every bite.

Gram knew how to snack, but she also knew how to dance. I would sometimes go with her to her senior citizens exercise class. There I witnessed my grandmother burn away her peanut butter sessions. She danced along with several friends as they watched their ridiculous work-out video, two-pound dumbbells in hand. This was the same lady who hosted sophisticated tea parties and Bible studies and could conquer an entire jar of peanut butter in a single sitting without ever showing any sign of the calories.

When the weather didn’t allow me to venture out to her beach, Gram would pop in a VHS tape for me. Through these movies, she introduced me to a wide array of characters who became my friends. Daffy Duck. Felix the Cat. Betty Boop. Mighty Mouse. Bugs Bunny. Larry the Cucumber. Bob the Tomato. Her home was a place of discovery for me, and to this day I still dream of the house, each time going from room to room and reliving those memories, always so excited that I was actually back in the house and not dreaming, only to wake up in disappointment that it was, after all, just a dream. Each dream ends before completing my tour of the house. Before the memory is completed.

Gram’s legacy transcends that beach house. Gram lived. Gram loved. Gram taught.

She taught me about my shepherd of a grandfather who went to be with his Savior just two weeks before I was born. Every time I sat with Gram in her green rocking chair, she would affirm my birth as a small light of hope during that difficult time in her life.

She taught me to pray, to give glory and thanks to God for His provisions, and to trust that the storm will always pass.

She taught me to live life passionately, to discover any potential I might have and to exercise it to the highest possibility. I doubt I’d be writing today if it wasn’t for her.

Gram may have slowed down in her final years, but now she’s dancing in the presence of her God, with no need of an exercise video or her dumbbells. She’s enjoying things far greater than peanut butter, and her many days as homemaker are over as she is finally living in the residence her Father has been preparing for her.

I doubt there’s wi-fi in Heaven [who am I to assume], but I’ll say this: Thanks, Gram, for pushing me on. I look forward to seeing you again someday. Thanks for handing that random trinket over to me.

Where do you find inspiration? What seemingly meaningless things are irreplaceably valuable in your eyes? I would love to know.