Monday, September 07, 2009

Treasures

“This is to certify that [Grandpa] did on this date at approximately 2100 Hours call his lawful wife (we hope it was his wife because he kept calling her “My Darling” and “My Dearest”) for the purpose of making his evening report.

“Sworn this 25th Day of November in Nineteen hundred Forty Sixth year of our Lord:”

I smiled as I read it, having opened the warped wooden box that contained it and smoothing the tear in the paper with my fingertips as I started from the beginning again. My parents translate “cleaning” to “bringing stuff to their eldest daughter’s house” but when the treasures are such as these, I can’t say I mind.

Resting my head on Mom’s shoulder as we stared at the aged and folded paper together, I murmured that he loved her very much and felt her nod. I closed my eyes against the pain that I won’t have that – there will be no grandchildren to find love notes or enduring items to pass along – but reopened them to forcibly focus on gratitude that ancestors had enjoyed such relationships.

“What else did I get?” I asked with a grin, pulling myself upright from where I’d curled against my mother and wiping the stray tear from the corner of my right eye. I reached for a cardboard box this time, also showing its age, and slowly wiggled off the cover. Inside it were three small Bibles – the ones that only contain the New Testament – Grandpa had collected. One was from his childhood – addressed to Billy – and the other two were given out during the war. When forced to face your mortality, I considered, religion must hold a particular appeal, but felt pleased that he had respected the fragile books. Kept them. I paused to admire the fishing pole Dad was showing me, kept in a long, sturdy box that protected the more delicate pieces within.

Returning to the Bibles, carefully taking each from their box, I was left with a small postcard resting in the bottom. I reached to pull it out slowly, staring at it with an odd certainty that I’d seen it before.

“You don’t have to keep that,” Mom said and I frowned at her, curling my fingers around the tiny piece of cardstock protectively.

“I want it,” I said defensively, pulling it closer to me as I bent over to look at the details.

I have an inordinate fondness for old hotels. Part of what pains me about having my European trip canceled was the loss of the opportunity to stay somewhere historic and lovely in London, outside Paris and around Munich. My favorite pieces of art are prints of vintage hotel posters. Large wooden frames protect the edges as the sit proudly on my living room wall. I’ve always wondered why I was so powerfully drawn to them. Why any trip to a large city finds me wandering toward the oldest lodging structures, poking through gift shops to find old drawings of the buildings.

The postcard unearthed under the Bibles was of a hotel. A rather plain rectangular structure, it sat on a corner of Main and Markham in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was, at the time, “Little Rock’s Newest Hotel” and boasted 300 rooms – each with bath and ‘Circulating Ice Water’ that I personally believe was meant to cool the building. As Dad frowned while deciding whether or not to agree with my belief, I leaned away from Mom as she stared down at the postcard.

“It’s mine,” I told her clearly. “Not Garbage.”

“I know,” she said, patting my arm and reaching for the paper I begrudgingly handed her. “It’s where they got married,” she said softly. “He was preparing to deploy so she went down and wore a white suit and married him. In this hotel.”

“Oh,” I breathed, leaning over to look more closely. Then I glanced over my shoulder at the framed picture that hangs on another wall. Not taken on their wedding day, but close. And now the postcard, carefully framed, hangs not so very far away from their portrait and the other vintage posters I collect.

“It’s not fair,” Dad pouted after he placed the framed treasure on the wall a day later. “There aren’t very many pictures of me anywhere around here.”

“There are so!” I argued. “Well,” I paused, looking around, “maybe not in here. But I have several in my office!”

“I can see one from here,” he teased. “I’m in that collage, but I’m itty bitty.”

“What?” I said, frowning at him when he mentioned this silly mess of photos I don’t even remember putting together and certainly haven’t displayed in the 10 years since they’ve been taken. I was distracted by Mom’s giggles as she went to look at it and quirked my eyebrow at her.

“There are,” she paused to laugh, “two pictures of ducks and two of the lake and one of your Dad and I taken way off in the distance.”

“We’re an eighth of an inch tall,” he said, losing his battle against a grin, “and the ducks are at least two inches. That makes me feel unimportant.”

I smiled back at him when I went over to look at it, Mom still lost in giggles by the counter.

“OK,” I said after I swallowed laughter. “First, you’re about the same size as the ducks.”

“But I’m much bigger in real life!” he interrupted. “When interpreted to scale, the ducks are mutated giants compared to me!”

“Second,” I continued, undaunted, “they’re ducklings. Still fuzzy. I like ducklings.”

“Better than she likes us,” he told Mom and she kissed him on the head while perching on the arm of his chair.

I paused, trying to capture the memory clearly as they sat together, looking happy and loving, full of laughter and life.

“I love you very much,” I assured them and rolled my eyes and replaced the collage when they continued to laugh at me. Glancing at the other side of the room, Little and Smallest One smiled sweetly from photos taken the week before. The framed images were carted up with the rest of the items from home.

2 comments:

In Between the Lines said...

Treasures indeed. I liked reading this so much, you parents sound like two very funny, happy people.
Im glad your feeling better

JustMe said...

i agree, i love treasures, though my mom would just throw them away if i didn't find them!

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