What Secrets Are Hidden In A Woman's Heart?
A Terrible Day
That October day, started like any other. Morning chores, big breakfast and off to high school. At 16, I had no idea how my young life was about to be altered and scarred.
The day was like any typical school day, until I was summoned to the principles' office. Knowing, I was not a disruptive student, I expected a review of high school credits I would need the next year to graduate.
He was standing just inside the office door, I was suddenly very afraid.
He said he had come to show me his new boat, it was a lie, we both knew this. We both knew only a terrible truth could be hidden behind such a bold lie. He would not anger my Grandparents by interrupting my education in such a way. I can hear my broken voice demanding, " tell me what the matter is".........he would not until my brothers joined us. Looking back, he must have known that we would cling one to the other, asking in unison, " what has happed to our Papa'? We would each be the prop, holding the others up. We would be united, together, we would once again embrace joy. But today, we needed one another as allies in a cruel world.
My uncle told us then, of our Grandmother's death. It was sudden. She had not been ill. She had gone about her morning chores, sat in her chair and simply,......... died. We did not know yet that this could happen. You either went to war, ( Viet Nam), had a car crash or were sick. Just quietly die? How could this be true? How could this be true of our feisty, "Granny"? We did not understand............we never would.
Who would be my 'mama' now? I was too young to be without one.
This Is Not About Grief
You know what grief and loss are. You have endured your own.
This is about discovery, and wonder.
It would come, many years later. My own daughters, as young children, would witness my journey.
Granddad Keeps On Going
Though he was some 12-15 years older than his wife , and generally considered in be a more frail health than she had been, Granddad outlived my Grandmother by almost 20 years.
He knew he was approaching the centurion mark, and he must have known his time was short. He called his daughter, a favored daughter-in-law, and instructed them, it was time, he said, to finally, review and divide up my Grandmother's things. They were instructed that they may keep what they like, as long as it was by mutual agreement. Should a disagreement arise, he would serve as judge. Quilts, treadle sewing machines, grape presses, apples peelers, grinders, nut crackers, and ancient secrets found themselves in new hands.
They were also instructed to leave alone the cedar box at the foot of her bed. They were to neither remove it, or open it. That particular box was to be left for and opened by " Sissy".........that would be me. He sent for me, and I came at his will.
How could he have known, that as a child, I knelt at that box, tracing the smoothness of the wood, inhaling the fragrance? Did he know how I longed to open it, and look inside? Had my Grandmother told him of the times that I pleaded for just one short look? Did he know, that I would suddenly be afraid of what I might find there? I wish I had dared to ask him these questions. He was the kind of man you obeyed without question. Even though, I was now grown, I could not violate that respect. Like my aunts, I simply followed and complied.
I thought it was about the 'box'. There was no indication that it was about me..........none.
The cedar box was once the fantasy of my girlhood, on this day, it caused great trembling. I had never before stood in the face of such a fear. I could not lay this fear at the feet of my young children or on the back of an old and much worn man. It must be faced by me. The box, it was , after years of wanting to, finally time, for me to open the box......Now at the edge of girlhood fantasy, I knelt before it, very afraid.........suppose the contents would not live up to my expectations.....suppose.....NO, I could not tease my mind any longer.
If only my Grandmother were here, guiding me.......
Emptying The Box
I pulled her out with great care, just as she must have been placed there years ago. She had lain on my Grandmother's bed, for years. I could not recall when she had left there or why. I had not thought of her. Surely, she was not put away to be kept safe from my childish hands......I had never been enticed by her. But here she was, among the other treasures I would find.
A doll, I was never intrigued by.
A ball cap that had been my Dad's as a small boy. My Daddy was once a little boy? How delightful! What a stretch of my imagination........a man, who stood guard over my tomorrows, had yesterdays.........?
A photo of my Mom, I knew it was her, I just knew it, on her wedding day.....and another on the day I was born, in another, she was holding a dog. Don't I too, like animals? I had not seen these before. I had to step outside, lest I choke to death in front of my own daughters. Even now, in this telling, they suffocate me. The pain must be stifled away unless I will my own drowning.
I returned to the box.
There was a shirt box, removing the lid, and unfolding the tissue paper......I instinctively knew.......
My mother's braids. My own hair would never be this long. Who requested that they be placed there for me?
A childish drawing......I do remember this. I knew it was not good, even as a first grader, I knew. Mrs. McCoy had simply spoken words of encouragement My eyes had seen better drawings. A crayon picture, covered in wax.......yet, my Grandmother had treasured it enough to place it in 'the box'.
A baby food jar, filled with water and an artificial flower in bloom. How could she have treasured such a thing? A childish attempt to make beauty of cheap plastic? Yet, that was exactly what she had done........found beauty in childish attempts. By this time, I had done the same, I had a 'Mama's Box'......I understood....the gift is about the one who gives......
A piece of handmade lace......from the hand of my Grandmother's mother. It was well made, a piece of Americana. It was and still is, gorgeous, delicate, feminine. It reminds me of a day long passed........my Grandmother witnessed the passage of time. As I , would later witness my own passages.
A womans' high heeled shoe, covered in macaroni and then spray painted gold. A cheap child's gift. No farm woman would wear this to the milk barn, where had it come from? Why was this treasured? My Grandmother was the keeper of my childhood........and of my tomorrows.
Then , among the childish treasures, I found..........the book.........
I Had To Know
Sending my children out to play, I knelt beside my Grandfather. With all of the courage I could muster, I questioned him..............it was not as difficult as I had feared. He was truly a gentle man. Strength deceives a child.
The doll was purchased for me by my mother. My Grandmother, who once held it for herself, had put it away, thinking I would one day treasure it also.
The childish drawing and gifts, were indeed just as I had remembered. Mementos of my little girl days.
My Dad's mother had donated the ball cap......aware that life can change, and she may not be there to present it to me 'someday'........
The braids........yes, they were my Dad's idea. There would be questions over the years. A man not would feel at home with such questions.......a girl would need her mother's touch. I would have no memories of my own. They must be given to me. There should be something that a girl could touch and see, something that she could put her hands upon. She must hold the same things that her mother once touched. Put the braids in the box for her.
The book..........He did not know of it. He had no clue.....Had she herself read it? What did it symbolize to her? Was there a message? How could I decode it? Did it have a meaning to me? Or was it simply something, she thought was worthy of retelling? My Granddad, for the first time in my life, had no answers.......he was himself, bewildered by the woman he loved.
This secret of my Grandmother's heart may never, will probably never, be unlocked. Each time, I see the book, upon my shelf, I think..............of her.
And I wonder........why, please tell me why.
Is there a reason, a lesson, a tradition................or do you simply wish to be thought of?
The book my Grandmother left in a box to be opened by me..........
I can not fit it into the puzzle. It makes no sense........fits no pattern. It is not anything that I would expect from her. Indeed, my Grandpa was baffled.
"Famous Hussies of History"............WHY did my Grandmother leave me such a book, written, even before my own birth? It was a book written during her own youth. There has to be a reason, she left no note, nothing written the pages.
My Grandmother left me the gift of wonder, of questioning, of wanting to know........is THAT her final gift?
A bit more about me and how I relate........
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