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Prized possessions

Richard O’Leary answers a challenge to name his most prized possessions and settles on a book, a painting and a chair.


Prized possessions

Richard O’Leary answers a challenge to name his most prized possessions and settles on a book, a painting and a chair.

A column on my most prized possessions – that was the challenge thrown down by a reader this week.

I don’t want to start a free-for-all for story suggestions, but this idea did pique my interest, coming as it did the week I moved back into the family home, after renting it for two years.

Before we moved out and the tenants moved in, we threw out a couple of skip bins of stuff, but you wouldn’t have known it as we emptied the storage room of the furniture and boxes we’d kept.

The house seemed to fill up fast, so it was perfect timing to ask what I would throw out first and what I would keep forever.

To answer the first part of the question – there was little left that was saved for sentimental reasons, most of it was utilitarian: tables, chairs, beds and other household essentials. All replaceable.

But what would I keep until the end? I’ve intentionally eliminated from consideration the obvious: family photos, and anything painted, drawn or written by the boys.

Although in reality they would be the first things grabbed in a disaster, and the last things I would ever throw out, it would hardly qualify as a challenge to identify them as my prized possessions.

So I’ve widened the search and settled for three things.

  1. My first edition of Peter Carey’s first book The Fat Man In History. This is my retirement plan. I bought this rarity for a small fortune about a decade ago in the hope the twice Booker winner would become the first author to win the prize a third time, sending its value skyrocketing. Alas, he is yet to realise my ambitions for him and I will still have to rely on my superannuation.
  2. If my house caught fire, the large painting that hangs in our hallway may be difficult to retrieve, but I’d try. The work of Central Australian artist Nellie Marks Nakamarra may not be as sought-after as the paintings of her sister Elizabeth, but this piece means much to me. I’ve spent a decade in the Northern Territory and the ochre, black and white painting takes me back with just one glance.
  3. The last of my prized possessions is the rocking chair I used as a boy. Besides photos, this handmade wooden piece of furniture is a reminder of my early years. When I come across it I can feel my warm flannelette pyjamas, hear my mother reading me a bedtime story and smell the pink ointment she plastered on my chicken-poxed skin.

Which is why I was chuffed when my youngest son claimed it during the unpack, despite him being well beyond fitting into its narrow frame. Maybe, just maybe it will become one of his prized possessions, and it will keep on rockin’ for many years to come, long after the rest of us have come to a standstill.


Richard O’Leary is a journalist, a political advisor and a father who knows there’s a deeper meaning to life but struggles to find it.

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