I’m cleaning out my closet today. Not because I have nothing else to do, but because the gadget holding my heavy wardrobe fell off the wall. I store plastic bins deep in the dark depths of this closet, so I’m unearthing boxes I haven’t seen in a while. There is a handcrafted cedar box my brother who passed away in 2017 made for my son as a baby gift. It is filled with my son’s childhood. As I open the box the smell of cedar wafts through the closet. Precious memories from over twenty years ago tug at my heart strings. The outfit he was brought home in, smiling baby photos, other little moments in time paused and saved to be cherished later. Then I see my grandma’s memory box that I happily inherited.
It's a simple square box, repurposed from a photo album she bought. This holds things she treasured and saved for decades. I wonder why certain things made the cut, like the packet marked “navy sweater button.” Among her many sweaters; this one must have been her favorite. She kept clippings from the local paper from when my grandpa and she moved to the farm after they married. Those were the days when everything made the local paper. She saved birth and wedding announcements of her children and grandchildren. Even the programs from my beauty pageants that my mom handmade my lacey dresses for.
And then, there’s the rosary, sealed in a little box, faded with age that appears to be her first one. Another rosary, tucked in a baggie, perhaps from her wedding day, along with a discolored wedding photo. A tiny Bible and a hair clip. And a little, plastic orange chicken. An orange chicken hmmm…… I have to laugh every time I see it. Oh, Granma, what’s the story behind the orange chicken that you saved all these years?
As I went through her treasures for the first time, I couldn't help but laugh. But I understand why she kept these, treasured memories, just like my little pink music box that holds my own collection of cherished items. I took the liberty and added to my grandma’s memory box. The little silver watch she wore whenever she went to town, her favorite handwritten recipes on the well-aged index cards, tucked behind the newspaper that was printed that day in 2009 that she passed away. Additionally, the last cup she drank from and the towel my mom placed on her hot forehead in those final hours. Her well-worn housecoats, still carrying her scent, are preserved in a plastic bag. Sometimes, when I need her close, I'll take a whiff. There's also the prayer card from her service and a clipping of her fine gray hair. I added my grandpa's little pencil encased in a metal holder stating on the barrel:
Sheep Sales Tuesday & Wednesday
Cattle Sales Thursday & Friday
He always carried it in his front shirt pocket.
And because my Granma would get a good laugh, her favorite Freedent gum in packs (which wouldn’t stick to her dentures….. SShhhh), along with the ever present in the kitchen drawer- blue pill bottle full of quarters for the water windmill – and don’t you dare try to get water from any place but the one on the corner of Arden Rd & Sherwood Way or she would know and fuss at you! (I used to think they were all the same)
Grandma, I hold your treasured memories close, just as you did. And like you, I will always treasure them.