Thursday, January 31, 2008

Exploring the Trunk

My husband has few things from his grandparents who immigrated to the United States early in the last century. The most notable item is Grandma’s Trunk. If this trunk could talk, oh the stories it could tell. The old trunk isn’t pristine but it is loved.

Grandma came from the old country at 16 years old. What courage she must have had to leave her home and all familiar for a new country.

For my children, this woman is great-grandma. They love the stories of the farm and other remembrances my husband has of this courageous woman. They also love going through the trunk.

The trunk opens with a creak then comes the puff of air, the aroma of Cedar and time. The top bin has smaller items dollies, clippings, baseball cards.
In the larger section, larger or lesser used items remain: crocheted coverlets, knitted lap blankets, doilies and other items from the past, photos, childhood costumes and a our daughter’s christening dress; contributions from four generations.

I want my children to know their ancestry, it’s important to know from where you come, to find out who you are. There are traits; I believe are based in DNA and knowing about the people who came before, you have insight into how to navigate yourself through the world, using your strengths and mitigating your weaknesses. This I find to be true for myself. And if it is also true for my children, I hope to arm them with all the information they need to progress as human beings.

I pull each item from the trunk and place it around the room. Some of the textile items need regular airing, and I just like to do that for all the things in the trunk. They see the light of day between two and four times a year.

My daughter is always interested in the story about her christening day, who were the people there, how did it go. She asked virtually the same questions every time. Not because she doesn’t remember, but because she enjoys the story.

Next, my son will ask about the baseball cards, as he picks them up and looks through the now, long retired, mostly dead players on cardboard backing. He wants to know about the card collection and why his dad still has them. His collection of Pokémon cards maybe one of those things he keeps into his adult life.

Grandma knitted a blanket for our first born son. He seems to pass by each time we’re in the trunk, just in time to hold it to his face, brush it against his cheek and sniff just a bit (of love, I think) from the blanket of yellow and white.

Our trunk gives us time to talk about what America was like for an immigrant in 1910 and what kids were like in the 30s and 60s. There are bits of history in our trunk, bit of our selves, and bits of loved ones passed from this life. The gift our ancestors gave us by passing these bits to us is invaluable. There is a powerful sense of right I feel when I hear my kids remind each other of the people from which they come and the stories about those people, the things they did and the time they lived.

It’s good.

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