Saturday, August 2, 2008

Today's Treasures

I am sitting in my parents' bedroom in Geneva, New York. (My parents give us the whole upstairs while we are here and they take a smaller bedroom on the middle level.) Below me I hear my mother puttering about it in the kitchen and the waves lapping the shore. Randy and the children have just gone for a canoe ride, and every few minutes I hear one of their voices and the sound of the canoe skimming the ripples. Far away a motorboat hums.

The first day of vacation is always a lazy one. After a 14-hour car trip, we are a little woozy and weak, as if drugged by fast-food and miles. We arrived close to midnight and awoke to rain. A perfect morning to begin going through boxes in the attic.

And so my mother, Laurel, and I went through boxes marked "Sarah" in the attic. Every now and then Duncan would run in and I'd give him a special find: a necklace, a box of fossils, a small statue. He'd run back to "his" room satisfied and proud.

I'm supposed to be weeding through things, deciding what to throw away and what to keep. Somethings are easy choices: my Varsity jacket, my class pictures, favorite books. Of course I must keep these things. Some things I toss with reluctance but determination: a Shrinky-Dink dwarf, an old shirt, a bookmark.

And I found some treasures, too: the journal my brother made for my when I was 10. For about 2 months I wrote in it every day, and most pages even have illustrations. I love this one on May 1, 1976: "Mom and I went up to the attic. We played jump rope for four hours. Ooh! My feet hurt. That about all we did." the picture underneath shows us jumping rope. I commented to my mother that she was an awfully good mom for playing jump rope with me for 4 hours. She said, "Oh it was probably really about 4 minutes." Somehow that made me feel better, washing away the sometimes guilt of my own sometimes selfish mothering.

More treasures:
* a glass salt cellar in the shape of a frog. A note inside says, in my grandmother's writing, "Andrew Riley brought this with him from Ireland." My great-great grandfather, Andrew, and his brother came from Ireland in the 1840s.
* a set of gold wedding rings, tied together with a velvet ribbon. No inscription. What is their story? Who kept them, and to whom did they belong?
* my father's Eagle Scout pin.
* a tiny empty perfume bottle in a box, with this note scribbled on the back: "This bottle of perfume was given to Gladys M. Riley Cummins at Woods School, Christmas 1914." My grandmother would have been 14 then. Who gave it to her, and what made her keep it all those years?

I hear the canoe scraping the shore now and the kids jumping in the water. I may be more plugged in than I imagined this vacation. On a whim Randy opened up his laptop and said, "Hey, maybe we can pick up someone's wireless out here."

Gotta love the neighbors. Looks like we won't have to head into the library every couple of days to check our email!


  1. Great memories, eh? I love going through stuff like that, though the tossing is always so hard. When my mom died we found envelopes with baby teeth - not identified - and even one adult tooth, ick. My kids enjoyed looking at the roots till I chucked it.

    Your daughter and I have the same middle name!

    Have a great time!

  2. That's what we did when I was in Detroit recently. We just tapped into other wireless networks.

    brother john

  3. I'm very curious about the rings as well.

  4. Hello!
    Sorry we have not been able to keep up with your blog lately. We hope to get into a groove soon, but internet has been sketchy-to-non-existent.
    Bummer we couldn't be seeing y'all while you're in NY.
    Enjoy your vacation!

  5. either 4 minutes or 4 hours -- your momsie sounds great
    : )

  6. 4 hours of jump roping would be exhausting! Sifting through memories is always an interesting experience. I was going through baby clothes recently (yes, I still have them even though my kids are 5 and 7), and so many memories came pouring forth!

    Enjoy your vacation!

  7. when my grandma died 9 years ago, my mom went through her things. she found a wedding ring set that matched the one grandma had worn. my grandpa had no idea why there was a second set! to this day we still wonder why she had two sets of rings.

  8. The nostalgia is killng me! I love it!! What amazing, amazing treasures you found!


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