Friday, October 12, 2012

100TWC - Day 77: Memories

The old woman stood bedside Rebecca as she waved goodbye to her parents. The child seemed cheery enough for now, but eight hours lay ahead of them before her daughter and son-in-law would return and she wondered how on Earth she could fill them for the girl. Lunch, certainly. Afternoon tea. Some crayoning. But then what?

"Will they be gone long?" Rebecca asked.
"All day I'm afraid my dear," she replied. "It takes at least two hours to get to where they're going, and they'll be there all afternoon. What would you like to do? I have some colouring books. Or we could watch some TV?"

The girl's face creased in deep thought. Then her eyes lit up.

"Can we look in the old chest?"

The old woman laughed in surprise. That was the last thing she expected.

"Why, yes. If you'd really like to."
"Oh yes, I really would."
"Come on then. Don't you want a drink before we start?"
"Maybe later. I'm OK for now."

They climbed the rickety old stairs with their threadbare carpet and their old dog smell, still lingering even though Jed had been gone almost a year. The door to the back bedroom creaked as she pushed it open.

"I really must oil that," she said, half to herself.
"Oh, no! Don't Granny," Rebecca said. "It makes it more creepy when the hinges creak like that."

The woman walked stiffly over to the wardrobe, her legs still complaining after the climb. She pulled an old tin strongbox from the bottom of the hanging space, carried it over to the bed and sat down beside it. Rebecca jumped onto the bed on the other side, threatening to tip the box onto the floor.

"Careful!" the old woman cried. "The things in here are precious!"
Rebecca looked aghast. "Sorry Grandma," she said, staring at the floor.
"Never mind," said the woman. "No harm done." She unlocked the box, the small silver key turning easily in the well-worn lock.

Inside, an eclectic mix of ancient and treasured possessions lay tidily. Some wrapped in old yellowed tissue paper, or pages of The Times from years gone by. Others were uncovered, but each had been placed with care so as not to rub against a neighbour or crush something more fragile beneath. Rebecca picked up a small, gold framed mirror from the top of the assortment.

"What's this?"
"Oh, that was my grandmother's!" the old woman exclaimed. "I used to call her Mammy, because that's what my mother called her and when I was young I didn't know any better. Later it kind of stuck. It's a dressing table mirror."
"What's a dressing table?"
"You call them lowboys," the woman replied, "and these days they usually have big mirrors standing up at the back. Like a little table with drawers in the front. You have them in bedrooms for keeping your toiletries and make-up, that kind of thing."
"I know. Mum's got one. But this is so small."
"Mirrors were expensive in those days. Only rich people could afford mirrors the size of tables."

Rebecca stared at herself in the mirror. "I'm going to be rich one day."
"Me too," said her grandmother.
"What's this?" asked Rebecca, setting down the mirror and retrieving a small green glass jug from the corner of the strongbox.
"It's a green glass jug," replied the woman, smiling.
"I know that, silly," Rebecca giggled. "I mean where's it from? Whose is it?"
"It's mine, and I've had it since my very first holiday in 1947."
"Wow! That's ages ago!"
"It doesn't seem so long ago to me," the old woman said, taking the jug from the girl and holding it up to the light. "It's hand-painted look, all these flowers and fronds. The war hadn't been over long and my Father had only been back from overseas for a little while. We all went to the sea-side. It was the first time I'd ever seen the sea. First time I'd ever been anywhere except our town."
"How old were you?"
"Wow. When I was eight I'd already been to France and Spain and Disneyland AND Mexico."
"Yes, well travel wasn't as common back then. Ordinary people didn't fly much. We were lucky to be able to take a train to the coast. Rationing was still going in 1947."
"What's rationing?"
"I'll tell you later."

Rebecca started rummaging in the box.

"Careful!" her grandmother reminded her.
"WOW!" Rebecca exclaimed as she unearthed a tooled brass and enamelled incense burner. "What's THIS?"
"That's something my Father brought back with him from the war," the woman said. "It's from Turkey."
"What's it for?"
"You use it to burn incense - special oils or blocks that give off a nice smell."
"Can we light it?"

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