in the organization of last weekend i finally tackled a large trunk of musty, mothy paperwork that i have lugged (oh who am i kidding - liam lugged) from pillar to post on the many moves we had made. i had thought it was filled with my mother's old writing. i was wrong. it was a treasure chest. filled with bounty from my childhood, my mother's childhood and my father's childhood. pictures, letters, scrapbooks and ephemera from decades gone by. i have a huge sinus headache because of the mold and i can't bear to put everything away again. it feels like i've found pieces of myself i never knew existed.
did you know my mother went to college and dropped out in her first semester? i did not. nope. never knew it. i found that in a letter typed in a round-about by one of her high school crushes who was a math geek and at technical school pining away for her. he called her dumb for dropping out. i was shocked. i never knew. i knew she worked for the college, but i never knew she enrolled. i think i have stumbled upon a family secret.
my grandfather was a brilliant man. he held the formula (in his head) to some aluminum magic mumbo jumbo that was in high demand. he just could never seem to roll that into income. i think he was such a kind-hearted soul that people took advantage of him. i remember hearing about loosing investments and bill collectors. the shame of it all drove my grandmother into seclusion and no one ever talked about it in detail. i only remembered fragments of information overheard or talked about above me.
i wonder if she had to drop out due to financial reasons? she was so bright, excelled at everything she did. all of her friends went to college. but she was left behind. i can't imagine how disappointed she must have been. it feels like a piece to a puzzle i don't know where to put yet. i have so many questions, but don't know who to talk to about them. the secret keepers are still in full force in some bastions of my family.
i also saw the scrapbook of her first love. things were gangbusters and then nothing. zip. zilch. no information. it just evaporates. like the trail into the forest that ends at a stream. which way to go? what happened here? my mom always told us she was a virgin when she married dad. he tells me now that he doesn't think she was. i wonder if they had sex. she moved out to wisconsin shortly after the trail of the relationship died. maybe he just broke her heart. maybe she just needed a change of scenery. but it would answer so many question marks as to why she told me what she told me about men and how life can treat you. again, more questions, very few answers. i really feel like i'm reconstructing bobbie.
i could spend all my days looking over pictures, reading old letters, trying to piece the fragments of information together. she called my dad "tiger" in her letters to him. he bought her extravagant cards for every holiday. she saved them all. when did the alcohol begin to overtake their marriage? i can see the glamorous pictures from "before" - then in the beginning they start slack off, only a few snapshots here and there, not nearly as glamorous, and then hardly any from the time of the heavy drinking. i wonder if that's why there are only a very few pictures of my sister's childhood.
i know this is a gift. that there are answers here to some of the questions i have, and maybe leads to find the answers to others. i only know that looking at the pictures of my parents together, or my mom in her career clothes, riding in parades for being the "top-seller" are ties to a life gone by that fill in the gaps of my memories and brings me closer to the woman that she was. i am grateful.