Grandpa John’s Trunk

I had to bring the giant steel “steamer trunk” home

It belonged to my Grandfather on my mother’s side

I never knew him and I wish I had

My mother never really knew him, and it left a sadness, a large gap that she could never fill

A grungy deep green trunk with his initials hand painted in dark red on each end

All capitol letters in an old formal serifed font


Leather strap handles rotted and broken made it a challenge to maneuver it’s bulk into the garage

But the weight of its contents may hold some new connection that would somehow make me feel more complete

“You look just like him” my Mother would say and show me the one photo we had hanging in the back hallway by my bedroom.

She would always pause outside my door to look at his photo, then gently touch it with her index finger as if to release a memory

And, at the same time preserve it

Grandpa in his WWI uniform, a portrait in sepia tone, the typical pose, mid-chest with no hat, wavy hair and very sad eyes

He left her way too soon, but she had his eyes

Those eyes watched me all my life, and I see them everyday in my mirror

When she spoke of him she always ended with “He would have loved you…”

I hope so

The latches were stiff with age but the hinges opened willingly.

I pictured a trunk full of soldier stuff, an old Great Coat and uniform, perhaps a medal or two and a diary of action and victory

Maybe even one of those old funky gas masks

What I found in the old compartments were keepsakes from family births, deaths and a few highlights in between

A tray full of baby shoes, white, black and brown

A christening gown and bonnet gone yellow and brittle

Collar, cuffs and a hand warming muff covered in mink

Hand made sweaters, a once grand quilt and then coffin draping made of delicate lace ribbon with gold letters

One each for Husband, Father, Mother and Grandma

No battle field treasure as I imagined

No gas mask

But still, very much medals of accomplishments

Celebrations of new life and shoes for first steps into the world

Adornments to transform a simple coat into a declaration of achievement

Preserving grief while honoring one’s family position in gold letters

All placed in a sturdy trunk to preserve for the next generation to see

So it seems Grandpa and his big old trunk have declared that I would be the one to continue choosing those precious items that will preserve our family history

I can see it now