True title is My Grandmother's Grandfather's Trunk
|My Grandmother's Grandfather's Trunk
It was one of those days; there was nothing to do. It was rainy and cold and I had the flu.
I'd played with my dollhouse, had tea with the cat playing dress-up lady in Annie's old hat.
I'd finished reading my new Nancy Drew, even cleaned my room. . . underneath my bed too!
I'd done all of my homework, it lay neat on my shelf, I just didn't know what to do with myself.
Then my Grandmother Annie said with a smile, "Let's go up to the attic awhile.
There's plenty to do up there, treasures to find amidst the memories, the relics of time."
I'd never been in the attic before. Mom had said it was dangerous, and the floor
wasn't safe and we could be hurt and besides, it was dusty and she didn't want dirt
all over us and then tracked through the house and last but not least, maybe a mouse
was living up there and there he should stay-- up in the attic in the Shadows Grey.
As hand and hand we climbed the stairs, I wondered aloud if ghosts were up there.
"We did have a ghost once in '23, a gentle spirit named Emily.
Grandpa said she was only the wind. (But you'll note he said she, so she must have been.)
I love it up here, it's my special place," Annie said as we slowed our pace.
Out of her pocket, Annie took a large key; elaborate with tarnished filigree.
She unlocked the door and push it wide, but I just stood there and peered inside.
All I could see were scary shaped shadows; blacks and greys and indigos.
Then Annie lit a candle bright and the shadows retreated in the flickering light.
A multitude of boxes was stacked on the floor and a cobweb or two clung limp to the door.
A warped Brentwood rocker by the window lay near gossamer curtains of a long-ago day.
A dappled hobby-horse was worn with wear and although missing one eye, still a noble old mare.
A bridle of silver, a braided rein draped around a mouse-chewed mane.
A cubby-hole desk with a feathered quill near a lead glass window with a paw-printed sill.
High button shoes (Imagine! No laces!) A turn-around doll with two different faces!
Annie said as she sat in the old rocking chair, "Let me tell you about that old trunk over there.
It's pushed under the eave, close to the wall behind those boxes and that soccer ball.
“Your Grandmother's Grandfather's trunk crossed the Irish Sea
Leaving Kilkenny County from Carrick-on-Sur in a freighter named the Miranda Leigh,
My grandma died giving birth to my mother, when Grampa docked in NY, he married another.
Annie told me to look inside so I unlatched the lid and opened it wide.
There were lengths of muslin, yellowed with age, wrapped 'round a Bible with crumbling page.
A cameo pin of melon and cream, a cure-all tonic called Dr. Luke's Dream,
A souvenir from the County Faire, and an IOU from one Cornelius McNair,
A pair of satin pantaloons, a tarnished set of silver spoons,
A soldier's cap of faded blue, a silver medal for honor true.
and a North Adams Transcript, the three-star edition accounting the latest Yankee mission.
The headline read, "Rebels on the Run!" The paper was dated August 4, '61.
A bridal gown of satin and lace, a wedding band in a velvet case,
blanched and shriveled rose bouquet, and a parchment certificate declaring the day
that Bridget Quine and Peter McFee became husband and wife in '93.
On slender chain, a heart-shaped locket entangled with a watch one kept in a pocket.
Be-ribboned lock of ebony hair near a daguerreotype of a maiden fair.
A wooden doll in a calico gown, a wedding ring quilt filled with down.
At the very bottom was a written note "To all of my heirs," the author wrote..
"There is many a treasure of silver and gold and many have fought for a moment to hold,
but a far better treasure is one of the heart; a giving of memories, of one’s self a part.
By the time you are reading this, many years hence, I'll be but a memory, my era past tense.
Please add to these treasures in this well-traveled chest.
Remember and cherish. May your pathways be blessed."
That missive signed by Sir Jonathan McFee survived over one hundred years before coming to me.
Generations had read his will and added their treasures, the trunk to fill.
No museum will ever hold more precious treasure than Sir Jonathan's gold.
My Grandmother's Grandfather's Trunk at the top of the attic stairs
hid a secret room through a hole in the wall that nobody knew was there--
except for Annie, of course, and she told me how the slaves used to hide there back in '53.
She pushed aside the trunk and revealed a dusty hole that had once been sealed
to protect the fates of the people inside from those who searched and killed and lied.
We crawled along feeling a bit like moles tunneling through the dry, dusty hole.
We came to a room between two walls that I had never noticed was there at all.
A secret room, tiny and dank full of dour memories and blankets that stank.
There were painstaking messages scratched on the wall;
heartbreaking images were raised by their scrawls.
A man named Dobson and his wife, Becky-Sue
were searching for their children, aged three and two.
Another man had lost his wife, had anyone seen her?
Last seen in Kentucky, near the town of Raveena.
Two sisters had, happily. found their brother,
but, had anyone, anywhere, seen their mother?
A baby was born in this cramped little room; a breath of new life in this grave-like tomb.
Left behind on the floor in a corner dark were shackles and chains with an owner's mark.
Slavery's fetters now left behind worn smooth from wear and strain of mind.
Annie and I sat there, we could hear the rain and tried to, but couldn't, imagine their pain.
I was glad to crawl back to the attic and light musing on history and the slaves' cruel plight.
Annie's gone now these past many years and of sorrow and laughter, I've shed many tears.
There's a parking lot now at 12 Langford Place, yet neither time nor progress will ever erase
my visit with Annie to our family's past, that special day shall forever last.
My grandmother's grandfather's trunk always seems to hold one thing more-
Been added to many times over the years: This family history, this patchwork lore.
I still have her trunk, Annie's last gift and it's still one of my pleasures through its treasures to sift
with Annie's great-grandchildren cuddled close to me wide-eyed as they learn of their history.
And not just her great-grandchildren, no, add one more great
for time marches onward, and history won't wait.
A nurse's cap from WWII, a veteran's flag: red, white, and blue.
A piece of rock from the Berlin Wall, a postcard of twin towers tall,
three generations of tiny handprints, and an award for selling the most ‘Thin Mints.’
Pretty pictures brought home from school, needlework sampler of the Golden Rule,
A dried gardenia, crumpled and brown, some poetry of lost love found,
A dragon puppet, a crystal tear, an antler piece from a long-dead deer.
A two-dollar bill, crisp and new- a bronze encrusted baby shoe,
A thank you note I wrote as a child, and an old black telephone one actually dialed.
Divorce decrees and marriage lines, a yellowed map of The Cannonball Mines.
A Christmas ornament, a piece of a sleigh, newspaper articles of a noteworthy day.
A teddy bear, an orange-haired troll, a token for a New Hampshire toll.
Photograph album from pre-digital days, a Cabbage Patch doll, a D&D maze,
A 45 record signed by Davy Jones; the article ‘bout my brother in ‘Rolling Stone.’
One of my books, Journey to Jukai, a print of a glorious Maui sky.
So many memories, family treasures to hold as I continue to add to Sir Jonathan's gold.
My grandmother's grandfather trunk will pass on to my daughters and son
its two-hundred-fifty years of treasures and its history barely begun.