Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Musings...the mysterious lady

Giacomo Brogi (1822-1881), Portrait of a lady. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
You are sorting through some old black and white photographs mounted in an dusty album which you found in your parents' attic.  You suddenly discover a portrait, perhaps like the one above.  There is a 19th century date and the name and address of a European photographer's studio stenciled on the back.  Who is she? 


  1. Marjory M Thompson

    OK, so the posts are limited in size. That is reasonable. But my post is twice as long as it should be.

    Maybe ab double post would be acceptable???

  2. ………………..The TRUNK (Part 1) By MARJORY M THOMPSON

    A cloud of powdery dust fell from the opening as Eunice lowered the folding stairs to the attic. There had not been much attic-traffic since her Granny’s death thirty-two years ago. Yes, for a few short weeks after her funeral the stairs were used a lot. Four of Granny’s six children along with their spouses had descended on the house like vultures squabbling over whom was getting what from the assortment of odds and ends, and property accumulated over the years. Luckily, Eunice and her mom had previously moved many of Granny’s special belongings into their locked bedrooms.

    She remembered her mom watching in disgust as the men and woman, who had not come to the house for years, fought over long forgotten items. There were some things her mom had challenged them about taking. We were still living in the house and needed furnishing, dishes, linens, etc. As the surprise-child of Granny’s later years, they regarded her as the family baby left behind, along with her young husband, to take care of their aged parents and the even more aged family home and contents that none of them wanted—until then. Over the years, Eunice seldom saw any of her aunts and uncles. She barely knew her assorted cousins.

    Her mom and Granny were a big part of her life as she attended school, found a job, married and raised her own family. Both her dad and her Grandpa had passed away during her grade school years, and the three of them stayed together, in the house of three generations that was periodically repainted, or papered.

    Today, the things her mom had designated to various nieces, nephews and friends were packaged and ready to be shipped to the recipients. Her mom was the last family member of her generation to die. Now, waiting in the wings to descent on the long-ignored house and its contents, was a large array of extended family members from the following two generations. She was not up to dealing with a gaggle of squabbling relatives.

    None of the relatives had ever bothered to visit her mom in the rest home. Several lived just a couple miles away from the rest home. Only a few came to the service, asking when they could come to the house—to glean. She had put them off. She said that she needed to get back to her job in the city. She lied to them without hesitation, saying she would let them know when she would be back to open the house.

  3. ………………..The TRUNK (Part 2) By MARJORY M THOMPSON

    A week later, she and her children returned quietly to the house to sort, select and pack the items they wished to keep. Tomorrow the movers would arrive to carry the things to their new homes. An antique dealer had purchased most of the unselected furnishings, dishes, knickknacks, clothing, pictures and jewelry. The boy’s help the dealer load the things into his truck the previous evening just before they left to return to their homes.

    Only the attic was left in need of her attention, a job she had put off. It had been pretty well empties when her Granny died. Now only bits of broken furnisher, molding books and ghosts of memories, kept company with the trunk that sat amid the accumulation of dust and cobwebs. The trunk her mom had refused to let anyone open or take.

    Climbing the rickety stairs, her eyes adjusting to the stunted light of the attic, Eunice moved to the small window at the end of the room. It was sealed shut with age. Turning, she located the single dangling light chord with a bulb, grateful that the bulb sprung to life as she pulled the aged chord.

    A few months after Granny’s death, after the squabbling vultures had withdrawn, Eunice surprised her mom in the act of putting something into the trunk. When questioned, her mom jerked the lid closed, fumbled with the oversize key in the lock then hastily left the attic, muttering something about putting some of Granny’s things in the trunk. Her mom refused to comment further.

    It was Eunice’s time to open the trunk. She considered shipping it, unopened, to her place in the city, but somehow that did not seem right. Whatever was in the trunk, the secrets, the stories were a part of this house. It needed to be opened here.


    The light from the swaying bulb cast moving shadows over the trunk bringing to mind a kaleidoscope of images from the past. As Eunice placed the over-sized key into the lock, one picture came to mind and with it the words spoken by her mom in hushed tones to a visitor. Snatches of her mom’s conversation carried through the afternoon’s quietness to where Eunice sat in the sunshine, on the porch by the open kitchen window, having a tea party with several of her dolls.

    “…sister, first born … almost thirty years older…”
    “…beautiful … shy … old-maid… engaged to old banker….”

    “…ran way with musician…..”
    “…should have known better….”
    “…parents were heart broken…..”

    “... don’t know for sure….mom insisted they were…”

    “…I was only a teen….”
    “…a few letters….”
    “…couple years later I met Jack…”
    “…we stayed to help the folks….”

    “…the musician left…”
    “…mom and I … train…”
    “…away for…”

    “…with her…died…three months.”

    “…returned with the few things left…”

    “…no one talked…no one know”

    “OH, I better stop jabbering …”

    “No, no, it was good – a relief –to talk a bit about it.”

    “I need to get dinner started. Jack and the folks will be home soon.”

    “I am glad you stopped by before you headed back overseas.”

    Eunice sat in the attic, remembering those hushed words. She was sure that “..the few things left…” were in the trunk. They had a story to tell.

    Turning to pick up a backless chair, she placed it beside the trunk and then sat for a minute before reaching out to turn the key and lift the lid.


    The bundle her mom had placed in the truck sat on top of an accumulation of packages, boxes and clothing bearing the fragrance of age and cedar.

    She removed the lid of a hat box and saw a delightful assortment of flowers, leaves and feathers decorating a lady’s bonnet from seventy to eighty years ago. She carefully lifted and opened the bundle to expose a packet of letters tied with a ribbon. They were addressed to her Granny and bore postage marks from all over Europe. The handwriting was delicate, similar to what her Granny’s had been, and similar to her own writing as her Granny had taught her.

    She set the letters and the accompany papers on the floor. Later, not today, she would read them, confident they were from the older sister who had run-away with the musician.

    She reached for an oblong jeweler’s box, and felt the contents slid to one end as she pulled the box from the trunk. It was heavy. As she removed the lid and folded back the tissue, the light from the still swaying bulb reflected off the gems in the necklace that had lain buried in the trunk for so many years. She opened a fragile cloth bag and slowly removed a long, gleaming rope of pearls. They were not painted beads. They were heavy, size matched and real. All she could do was sit and gaze at them as she felt their cold smoothness slip over her hand.

    There was a box of clothes almost as old as the hat, plus some high-heeled boots and dancing slippers. She removed the lid from a pink box and caught her breath as she saw tiny pink booties, a pink sweater and matching bonnet. They were carefully folded over a small hand stitched blanket. An envelope lay under the blanket. She opened it to find a baby’s birth certificate. Goose bumps ran up and down her arms as her figure traced the print of a tiny foot.

    Setting the certificate back into the box, she replaced the lid and set the pink box beside jewelry box and the bundle of letters. She sat looking at the last item in the trunk. Closing her eyes, she took deep breaths of air, wishing it were fresh garden air she was inhaling and not the ancient dust of the stuffy attic.

    It was a about five minutes before she could bring herself to gather up the last box. Every particle of her being telling her that it contained pictures; pictures of the sister who had run away. The sister who had worn these clothes, danced in these slippers; who had worn the pearls. The sister who gave born to a tiny baby girl—and died.

    The box held only one framed picture of the sister. She wore the dress in the trunk with the rope of pearls wounded about her neck. She had a quiet smile and looked straight at the camera. Her distinctive features stood out as did her regal stance. Her eyes held the observer and Eunice sat gazing back into the eyes of her birth mother.

  6. Sorry - thought it would fit two posts! Marjory