"Every house has one, or a few. An object that a guest to the home wouldn't recognize as meaningful, yet it's value is priceless."
We have this ceramic that tiger my sister, Cindy, painted when we were kids, spending afterschool afternoons at a little pottery shop called The Snoop Shop. It was just a few doors down from my father's office. The lady who ran it was also a beautician at a local mortuary. (You can't make this stuff up!)
Anyways, this tiger was one of the biggest things she had ever painted. It had a place of honor on the hearth of my childhood home, right next to the fireplace. We had a huge floor to ceiling stone fireplace and hearth, with a cedar (I think) mantle. That chunk of wood had to weigh over 500 lbs. and was about 8 feet long and a good foot thick. The whole thing was the centerpiece of the room.
When my little brother, Ricky, was about the same age my son is now (which meant I was about 7), my aunt, uncle and cousin were visiting from down state. My brother had made a card for them, which had been placed on the mantle for safekeeping. He climbed up onto the hearth, and reached up and grabbed a hold of the mantle, looking for the card. That was the moment we learned that, when the home was built, the mantle was never secured. I remember sitting in my room, and hearing this house-shaking crash. That huge piece of wood had tumbled off if its perch, and landed squarely on top of my little brother. It had apparently hit him first on the face, then essentially bounced down his little body, finally pinning him down by the legs. My father, with the help of my uncle, pulled the mantle up and freed Ricky.
They took him to the closest urgent care center (we kind of lived in the boonies, so an actual hosptial was quite a distance away) to be checked out. He was a pretty shaken up, and looked like he had gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson, what with a fattened split lip and lots of bruises. Miraculously, he was otherwise fine. No broken bones, no real trauma at all. I don't even think he remembers much of it.
When we got home later that evening, we surveyed the material damage of the incident. Everything breakable on top of and underneath the mantle was, of course, smashed, including the tiger. With the help of our father, my sister managed to reconstruct her tiger, if a little crudely, with only a few pieces too damaged to use.
It later resumed its place on the hearth (after the mantle was securely put back into place), and when my parents moved after we had all grown, it went along to the next house.
I grew up in a family that was not particularly religious. But that tiger, with all of its cracks and missing pieces, still serves, for me at least, as a reminder that miracles do happen.