I feel my past slipping away like a landslide, the topsoil steadily moving down behind me like a carpet pulling everything with it into the deep dark void. Unstoppable. Taking the houses, the trees, and me.
“Who took the Adams’ Bible?” my aunt wants to know. “There was a big ruckus over that Bible. It landed in the hands of an alienated family member. Aunt Flo finally got it back and your mother got it from her.”
I scanned all the black and white photos in Dad’s leather album from his time in the army in Germany, transcribing all the little handwritten notes on the backs.
“Me standing at attention. Shaner messed this up. He didn’t tell me I was shadowed.”
“This is my equipment that we had to carry most of the time. I took it Sunday when we had inspection.”
“We had a demonstration yesterday and here is a shot taken right after the air force dropped some napalm on the target before the tanks and big guns moved in. It was some show.”
“Me sewing up a pair of shorts. The general is coming to inspect. (It didn’t do any good. We failed.)”
Mom’s framed wedding portrait with a telegram from my grandfather to my dad in Germany.
“Congratulations. It’s a little girl. Arrived at 9:30. Everything okay.”
I scanned all the photos of Mom and my sister in the back of Dad’s army album that I never realized were there.
“She’s got her eyes open a little bit more here. Isn’t she the cutest thing you ever saw?”
“This is where I give her a bath. Right by the stove. I turn the burners on so it will be nice and warm for her.”
Mom and Dad’s memories, recorded on film, sent across the ocean, returned home, arranged in a photo album, held in place with black photo corners.
Envelopes of color photos from the trip to D.C., my grandmother’s 90th birthday party, Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary. Grandchildren.
I’ll keep the things they saved from their parents. Photos, marriage licenses, death certificates. A hand-written diary from Mom’s grandfather and his farming days.
I’ll put it all in the cedar chest with their high school graduation photos and yearbooks; with the outfit Mom wore in the photo with her great-grandson just two years ago, and Dad’s captain’s hats from his pontoon days at the cottage at the lake.
Little mementos. Articles of genealogical interest. Sentimental items.
I’ll store them all away, for what purpose I do not know. Small fragments of a past that is no more.
17 thoughts on “Lives contained in a cedar chest”
“I feel my past slipping away like a landslide.” I can really feel the emotion behind this post, Christine. I’m glad you’re storing things away because if you’re like me, things will be there when you need them and when you least expect it. Take care.
It’s hard for me to describe what I’m feeling and going through. The loss of my parents was so much more than I ever thought it was when friends lost theirs. I will be much more sympathetic now that I understand.
I can’t imagine you weren’t completely sympathetic. You’ve suffered a lot of loss in a very brief time, Christine, so I can well imagine that you feel like you’re in a landslide. Hugs.
Those sentimental items and mementos do help to make us feel connected to those we lose. You suffered two great losses pretty much together.
You’re right about the items helping to make me feel connected. I have a little something from my parents’ house here and there around my whole house. I’m not completely sure if that makes me feel better or worse. Hopefully with time it will all be positive.
“I’ll store them all away, for what purpose I do not know.
To leave a time capsule for the sake of familial and human history; to shed light on the people and events of a brief moment in time. To shout “these ordinary people mattered: learn from them.”
These would be my purposes, anyway.
It seems you’re somehow shocked by the depth to which this loss has affected you. The only way out is through it. Allow yourself time to feel what you need to. Talk to the friends whose grief you didn’t fully honor at the time and tell them now you DO understand. Most importantly, let others support YOU emotionally during this really tough time. And keep writing….even things you don’t plan to share…it really does clarify things.
Thanks for your support. You’re right. I have been shocked by the depth to which this loss has affected me. I know I have to go through it. And I’m doing okay most of the time. I’m just having trouble staying focused and motivated. I hope to get back to my life’s work soon.
Are you going to transcribe some of the diary? I’d love to read some of it.
There isn’t actually a diary, just captions on the back of photos. I am going to write my Dad’s story, if I can ever get around to it. Most of it is in his own words from interviews I did with him. Now I’m thinking I may be able to incorporate some of these photos and captions into his story. I need to get back to it, but just haven’t been able to yet.
Its hard isnt it as we box up those memories and save those photos… I get mine out every now and again the few Dad had.. and thumb through them with a few tears….. My heart still goes out to you as you store the past lives of your loved ones…
I suppose I will do the same. I’m glad to have them.
In regards to your comment at my blog, yes, it’s about my mother. She’s in the hospital, and she’s not getting out. The cancer has spread through much of her body, and it won’t be long. I needed to see her at least one more time, say the sort of things I needed to say. It’s hard seeing her like that, but I’d have regretted not going.
I continue to think of you William.
Since December, my mother- and father-in-law have gone from independent living to hospitals and nursing homes. They are 400+ miles away, and my husband is feeling the same landslide you spoke of. Assets are being liquidated, the empty house that is no longer the “home” he grew up in, all threatening the very family foundation he was rooted in.
It’s a difficult thing that most of us have to face at some point. I am struggling with the idea of “family.” I hope my siblings can pull together enough to feel like a family still. It won’t be easy as my parents, and Annie, were the center.
My husband and his two siblings live in three different states. It won’t be the same.
I know it won’t, Patti. I feel the same way. It is an era that is gone. There’s no two ways about it.