I awoke on that early morning in Michigan, on the first weekend after school started; the sky was still mostly gray with the end of night and the beginning of dawn. Pulling back the light blanket and sheet that covered me, I carefully slid from the top bunk of my bunk bed, softly landing on the cool hardwood floor the way a child can. I was careful not to wake my brother, who slept on the bottom bunk.
My hobby at that time was collecting bugs. I had found from experience that the best time to find the ones I preferred was in the early morning, when they were still gathered around the lights on buildings. With this in mind, I pulled on a cold pair of jeans, the same jeans I'd left the night before on the floor by the corner of the bed.
Walking on my toes, I made my way to the door of our room and opened it slowly, so that the creaks it usually made would come out softer, less abruptly. I stepped out of the room and closed the door in the same way. My brother still slept.
I walked carefully down the wooden floor of the hallway, lest any noise wake my parents sleeping down the hall. The floor was, in my mind, notorious for making noises at the most inopportune moments.
I had fine-tuned my tiptoeing to the point that I could traverse the hall without too causing too many creaks. I found walking close to the wall the biggest help, but there was one bad spot that made changing from one side of the hall to the other necessary. With legs too small to step that far, I made the hop to the other side with ease.
With no squeaks or creaks or just-awakened parents to contend with, I stalked through the living room to the front door.
The front door posed less of a problem than the bedroom door in terms of sound, but the screen door, which was metal with a rubber flashing on the bottom, would occasionally stick. The force from opening the door would rattle the pane of glass that occupied the lower half of the door.
In the early-morning quiet, a noise like that could stir the deepest sleeper. And that day, the door had to stick.
I reached down and pushed with one hand, forcing the rubber to roll under, while my other hand forced the top of the door. Then the bottom lifted up and over the flashing, and finally, thankfully, out and away from the house with only minute little squeaks.
I stepped onto the painted gray cement porch, closing the front door and letting go of the screen door carefully; the flashing kept it from closing all the way.
The air was cool, crisp, and dry, and it smelled of wood smoke. The leaves on the hardwood trees had started to change into colors that carry the promise of fall at the end of an Indian summer.
Small birds chirped to greet the rising sun that was just beginning to appear in the east under the coaxing of a pink-edged sky. Dew had formed during the night, silvering the grass, then changing it with the reflection of pink from the sky and refractions of orange and gold from the rising sun.
I walked down the porch steps to the cement walk that led to our gravel driveway, careful not to step in the grass at the edges. The cement was cool on my bare feet and wet from the dew. The grass would have wet my feet and the cuffs of my jeans entirely.
I stepped onto the gravel with feet toughened from a summer vacation without shoes. They felt only the edges of the gravel, except for the occasional stone that was upturned from the passing of my father's car. Those stones I would really feel.
I made my way slowly across the drive, carefully hobbling, watching each step, and feeling for upturned stones before I put my full weight on them. And then, looking off to one side, I saw it.
It stood separated from the others by color: The surrounding stones were a fairly uniform gray, and the stone I saw was very dark. I carefully picked my way across the intervening gravel, reached down, and picked it up.
The stone was smooth and polished and had different colored bands that ran through it. One band was yellow, one red, one off-white, but for the most part the stone was dark brown-to-black. The stone fit in the palm of my hand; it felt cool from the night and slippery with dew.
I stood there in that cool early-morning air, surrounded by the smell of wood smoke and the feel of the sun as it rose and began to warm things. I stood and I looked at a small stone and thought it was pretty. I slipped it into my pocket.
I have heard that one man's treasure is another man's trash. I have found truth in this statement over the years, as I've watched things that were important to me disappear one after another.
Some of these were things that held their value only because I had gathered them, found them in places that instilled a memory. They were things that when held, brought to life the sounds, feelings, thoughts, tastes, and smells of the time and place they were discovered in.
Some things that I have had, have gone out in the trash; some things were simply misplaced; and some things that I have, have not disappeared yet, but will when I am gone.
What I did the rest of that day, I could not tell you. But I remember that morning very well - a time when I was very much younger and did not have the cares or worries that I do now. And when I hold that stone in my hand, it brings me back to that day. It lets me know that it really did happen: I was there; that was me.
It is only a small stone, worthless, except to me.