When I was a boy one of my favorite pastimes was riding my stingray bicycle through the many long neighborhood alleys prior to trash pickup day. I and my friends were always on the lookout for discarded treasure: used toys that were in good condition, rags and tools for my dad, brushes and picture frames for mom; even the little plastic horses that my sister so earnestly coveted.
On one of these occasions I discovered a shoebox filled with old baseball trading cards, numbering in the hundreds. I had no idea of their rarity or value, and had never collected them before. But I was aware that they were sought and traded by sports fans, and that the cards sometimes accompanied one of my bubble gum purchases at the local five-and-dime.
I kept that box full of baseball trading cards for many years—out of a vague sense that they were worth something—at least to someone. But as I rarely followed the careers of sports figures, in time my interest in keeping the cards diminished, and I lost track of them. Perhaps I gave them away, or maybe my mother disposed of them in one of her periodic “deep cleanings” of my bedroom. If so I can hardly blame her, for I was a prodigious collector of all things shiny, rare, or mechanically sound, and would very well have filled my modest room to the gills had she not given it a periodic and thorough sweep.
In the years since I have often thought about that shoebox filled with hundreds of baseball trading cards—many of which were old, even then. Were some of them rare, valuable—even priceless? It’s one of the many things in life that will remain forever enigmatic and mysterious to me, like the dreams of a puppy and the heart of a woman.