25 November 2009

THE Trunk

Stashed away in my basement is our family history.  It's stored in THE Trunk.  Well, not all of the family history is in THE Trunk, but a vast majority of it is.

You might be wondering why it's called THE Trunk.  Well, growing up my parents had a trunk that was kept in their bedroom.  In THE Trunk was a plethora of mementos of their lives.  On rainy days my sisters and I would ask (sometimes BEG) if we could go through THE Trunk.

I always felt as if I was being allowed in on some really cool family secrets when I got to go through THE Trunk.

I do know it was great fun to sort through all of the treasures my parents had packed away.  There were my parents' military uniforms and letters from friends and family after they had both gone off on their own into the world.  The handwriting in the letters was a bit hard to read as a youngster, but it gave me hours of wonder and insight.  There's something thrilling, even a bit illicit, about reading letters to someone other than you.  I got to see my parents as others saw them; they weren't just  "Mom" and "Dad," but were *real* people.

There were photos and cards.  Seeing the photos of my mom as a young woman and my dad as a young man, made it kinda hard to reconcile the people in the photos with the two people that sat across from me at the dinner table every night.  In the photos they looked young and vibrant and happy.  They didn't look tired or burdened by life's responsibilities.

There were their yearbooks and scrapbooks.  There were drawings my mother had done.  Why did she stop drawing and painting?  Did being a mom and homemaker preclude pursuing her artist dream?

There were some of our baby clothes and blankets, and there were our baby books.  There were art projects we did for our parents for various holidays and there were school papers.  Of course the school papers were only the ones with the best grades.  Who wants to keep a quiz your child did that only garnered a 24%?  There were the silly poems and drawings we would sneak into their room and leave on their pillows to find when they went to bed at night (we didn't think them silly at the time; in fact we were very serious in our 6 and 7 year old sentiments.)

At the time I didn't realize I was learning more and more about my parents each time I got to explore THE Trunk.  From the photos I saw that my dad at one point had been a chubby fellow.  By the time he got out of basic training from the Army Air Force, he was downright skinny; his uniform literally hung off him. 

My mom drove big trucks while in the Army and was a mechanic.  I have the photos of her in her coveralls standing on a ladder leaning into an army transport truck fixing something or other.  I'd think to myself, "Wow, she can fix trucks!  I can barely change a tire!"  There were also photos of her in her dress uniform snuggling with a kitten that had been found wandering the base.

Over the years, along with my parents' artifacts I've added some of my own letters and cards and photos.  Also packed away now are chunks of the Berlin wall I chipped off while in Germany when The Wall came down, pressed wildflowers that I smuggled into the country from my many sojourns to Ireland, a certificate "proving" I was at the demilitarized zone in Korea and another thanking me for my "undying support and understanding" while my then husband was off working intelligence in a bunker in the side of some mountain in the middle of Germany during the first Gulf War.  (I was home alone with a three week old colicky baby.)

Instead of me, Heather was the one who would ask to go through THE Trunk on cold rainy days.  I can still see her as she would sort through the family treasures and the expression of wonder on her face as she learned things about "mom" that made her a *real* person and not just Mom.

Over the past 18 years, I've added art work Heather did for me and some of her school papers, as well as her not-silly-at-all poems and pictures she'd leave on my pillow for me to find when I went to bed.  All of them hold some sort of special meaning to me.  Each of them represents a step she took on her way to becoming the beautiful young woman she is now.

One day THE Trunk will be tucked away somewhere in her home.  Maybe her kids will squeal with delight when they get to rummage through all of the treasures THE Trunk holds on a cold rainy afternoon.  Maybe Heather will sit back and watch and remember the days when she would spend hours enthralled and in awe of all the precious pieces of our family history.