My sister and her husband had been doing some improvement projects around their yard — planting hostas, digging out an old retainer wall, filling in gaps in the yard — when they found a hidden treasure.

A burial ground of old bottles. 

There were soda bottles, medicine bottles, lotion bottles. Some of the bottles were clear, others milky, one a bright shade of blue. There was even a small, flat bottle that had Avon imprinted in it — cold cream from a by-gone era. In all, about 10 different bottles emerged from a little section no more than a square foot.

When I stopped by their place Sunday, the bottles were in a neat row, as though in a police line up. I didn’t recognize any of them. But a couple of them did catch my eye, smudged and dirty though they were. As I pulled them from their queue and claimed them for my own, I wondered whether they would be worth cleaning up.

Those bottles bounced around in the back seat of my car for the past two days, as I criss-crossed the county of my birth visiting family, driving past my old high school, singing the lyrics to Sara Grove’s song, “Less Like Scars.”

And I feel You here
And You’re picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But You are able
And in Your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Character

When I finally got home and began unloading the car, I saw those bottles again and remembered. I remembered that when I had taken them from the ground, I had made a commitment to at least try to clean them up, try to redeem them.

I filled a bucket with water and submerged the bottles, hoping some of the dirt would soak off. After a few minutes, I started scrubbing with a soft brush. Then I used my fingers, gently wiping away the years of grime, the stains of time and neglect.

And gradually, I saw that the bottles were going to be beautiful again, even if they did have some marks that would not rub off and some dirt around the cracks that would never come clean.

Those marks and that dirt give the bottles character; they are evidence that these bottles were lost and someone found them. 

They should feel right at home here.