A lost treasure

“What is a treasure that’s been lost?” was the question in the Bloganuary prompt.

The image that immediately came to mind was an illustration from “Treasure Island,” by the remarkable nineteenth century traveler, thinker and writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Various versions of this map include an “X marks the spot,” where the treasure is likely to be found. At the end of the story, I believe it is divided up among various characters in the story – remember Long John Silver, and Ben Gunn?

This is apparently the original map from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” The treasure is there, somewhere.

Sometimes, however, the treasure is not hidden, or buried. Sometimes it is right in front of you, or just down the road. It may not be a chest full of gold, but it has value; or it once had value.

Sadly, in our ever-changing, but sometimes sad and worn city of Kingston, there are so many treasures lost that you can hardly keep track of them. Shady corners; old houses with wide verandahs flanked by staunch mango trees; even a small chapel with a garden, (the “Babbins Church”) and subsequently a mini-park with a commemorative plaque -transformed into a used car lot back in 2018. In the latter case, the mature lignum vitae trees on the small corner lot were treasures lost to the chain saw.

When we moved to Kingston some thirty-five years ago, the house next door was a lost treasure. It was in the typical old-fashioned style of a family home in St. Andrew, which is really on the outskirts of the city itself. Our area bears the glamorous title of the “Golden Triangle” (no, not a pot of gold! It sometimes looks quite tarnished).

The house next door had been allowed to fall down, because no one in the family (deceased, overseas, or just not interested) wanted it. It wasn’t of any value to them. This was the fate of many old houses in the area, which have disappeared, one by one.

When we saw it, the house was already lost. It had lost its soul.

Once, you could hear the clattering of dishes from the kitchen, someone splashing away in the shower, and a gardener clipping a hedge with a pair of shears. Once, you could hear voices: calling people to dinner, laughing over an evening drink of rum, talking quietly on the telephone (not a cell phone), reprimanding a child, arguing, crying, even cursing.

Without these voices, the house was no longer a treasure. It was trying to summon what dignity remained, gathering its skirts around it: its worn, tiled steps, its fraying eaves, its battered roof shingles. The columns still bravely supported the collapsing roof. But it knew its time was up.

The house was already a lost treasure, when we found it. Soon, it was gone, to be replaced by a modern town house complex.

The house next door. A

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