Josh wiggled his fingers and toes in the warm sand. The salty breeze blew in his face and Josh licked his lips.
“I can taste the ocean!” he announced. He dug his plastic shovel into the sand. “Brooke, will you help me make a sandcastle?” Brooke didn’t look up. She quickly turned the page of her book, eagerly seeking the next words in the story.
Dad pushed the beach umbrella into the sand while Mom spread out their towels. She looked at Brooke and laughed gently. “Brooke, do you want to stop reading and look at the beautiful view? This is a perfect start to our vacation!”
Brooke slowly closed her book. She tried to focus on the bright blue sky and the palm trees waving in the breeze, but in her mind she was still in the dark pine forest with Princess Rosalie and Sir Nathanael. It was her favorite kind of story—knights on majestic horses, a beautiful princess, a priceless treasure guarded by terrible monsters. She tried to picture what the treasure would be: gold coins, sparkling jewelry, riches for the grandest kings and queens.
Brooke gazed at the glittering ocean. It stretched as far as she could see. “There could be buried treasure out there,” she said. “I’ve read about ships that got caught in storms and sank with all their treasure.”
Dad winked at her. “Maybe we’ll find some while we’re here. We can have a treasure hunt.”
“No thanks, Dad,” Brooke said. “I’m going to read some more.” She stretched out on her beach towel and opened her book again. Would Princess Rosalie find the secret door in time? Would Sir Nathanael find a way to defeat the monsters?
A while later, Josh came running up to Brooke carrying his plastic beach pail. “Look! Dad and I found treasure!” He reached into the pail and pulled out a delicate sand dollar. It was followed by a collection of smooth stones and shells.
She picked up a piece of a shell. “This isn’t treasure.”
“Why not?” Josh demanded.
“These are just rocks and shells. They’re not worth anything.”
Dad sat down on the sand. “A treasure doesn’t have to be worth a lot of money, Brooke,” he said. “It isn’t always a pile of gold coins like you’re always reading about.” He grinned and tugged playfully on her hair. “A treasure is something that means a lot to you. It’s something that you want to take care of and remember.” He picked a shiny pink shell out of Josh’s pail and handed it to Brooke. She looked at it doubtfully. “Just think about it,” Dad said.
The next morning Dad said they were going to visit Grandma Connors. As Brooke put her book in her bag Mom touched her shoulder. “You can take your book, but please don’t read it while we’re at Grandma’s.”
Brooke frowned. “But there’s nothing else to do at her house. It’s boring there,” she said. “Besides, I’m getting to the really good part! Sir Nathanael is about to fight the monsters!”
“Grandma Connors is lonely and she misses us a lot,” Mom said. “She’s looking forward to visiting with all of us.” She smiled. Brooke didn’t smile back.
When they pulled up to Grandma Connors’s house, she was waiting for them in her front yard. “Hello, dears!” she called and waved to them. She led them inside, talking and laughing. She cut everyone a piece of cake, and they all went outside to sit on the back porch. Josh sat next to Grandma and she kept patting his hand.
Grandma, Mom, and Dad began talking about uncles and friends and cousins whom Brooke didn’t know. She swung her legs restlessly in her chair. “Will Princess Rosalie find the treasure?” she wondered. Her fingers itched to feel the familiar weight of the book, but she didn’t want to disobey Mom.
Brooke went inside, hoping she could find something to do. She found a bookcase filled with large, brown books. She pulled one out. The cover was plain. There weren’t any pictures of princesses or gold or jewels on it. Brooke half-heartedly opened the cover. Inside she found pages of photographs, some of them faded or turning yellow with age. She studied the faces but didn’t see anyone she knew. But then she saw a little girl with a braid who looked like her. She carried the album to the back porch.
“Well, look what you found,” Grandma said, her eyes twinkling.
Brooke pointed to the picture. “Who’s this, Grandma? She looks like me.”
Grandma smiled. “That’s your mother when she was about your age,” she said. She turned a few pages and pointed to another picture. “That’s your grandfather and me at our first dance together.”
Brooke settled next to Grandma and pointed to a black-and-white photograph. “Who are those kids?” she asked.
“That’s me!” Grandma said. “Me and my brothers, Jacob and Steven. And that was our dog, Smarty.”
“Smarty?” Brooke laughed.
Grandma turned to more pictures and told stories about family members Brooke never knew. But seeing their faces as Grandma spoke helped their stories come alive.
Before Brooke knew it, it was time to leave. “Before you go, I want to show you one more,” Grandma said. She turned to a photograph in the very back of the album. It was black and white, and worn from being handled a lot. A young couple stood together. The woman had long, dark ringlets that rested on a high-collared, lacy white dress. The man wore a suit.
“That’s you and Grandpa when you were married,” Brooke said.
“Yes,” Grandma said. Her voice was softer. “Looking at this picture and seeing his smiling face helps me remember all the wonderful times we had together. I’ve treasured this picture since the day it was taken, and it means so much more to me now that your grandpa is gone.”
Brooke studied the picture for a moment. “When we get home, I’m going to send you a picture of my smiling face so you can be happy,” she said.
Grandma hugged Brooke tightly.
A few weeks later, Dad brought home some pictures they took on their vacation. Mom, Brooke, and Josh crowded around him to see.
“There we are at the beach!” Josh said.
“There’s that beautiful garden I saw,” Mom said.
“There’s me and Grandma!” Brooke said, pointing to the photo of their young and old faces close together.
Dad propped up the picture on the mantle. Then he smiled and winked at Brooke. “Do you think we found a treasure?”
“I just need one more piece of gold,” Brooke said. She ran to her room and quickly returned. Next to the photo she placed a shiny pink shell. “Now our treasure is perfect,” she said.
“It is time to choose an oft-forgotten path, the path we might call ‘The Family Pathway,’ … coming home to attics not recently examined, to diaries seldom read, to photo albums almost forgotten.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, see “Becoming Our Best Selves,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 19.