Family History

Things have been a little crazy around my mom's house the past month. She has a single-story, ranch-style house, and a pipe burst at one end of the house. It apparently spewed water all night while she was asleep, and it had soaked the carpet through three bedrooms and the hall, and into the front room before she knew it and turned off the water. Everything had to come out of those rooms and closets...42 years of living there, and it's gotta all be moved. 

Of course, that means we go through everything. It was like moving, but without the big truck and burly moving men. I live a couple of hours away from her, so the bulk of this work fell to my brother/sister-in-law who live there and have a more flexible schedule. The rest of us chipped in when we could. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Saturday to help with closet clean-out. It happened to be the closet in what had been my dad's office; we'd cleaned in there several years after he had died, but apparently we did a lot of "we'll keep this for now" as we went through his things. This time? Ruthless. Well, sort of. My favorite find? Report cards for all of my siblings from elementary and middle school. Hilarious. My youngest brother was a blabbermouth and wouldn't focus (probably ADD), my oldest brother (the smart one) got an F -- can you imagine seeing an F on a report card these days? I'm pretty sure it won't happen for fear of damaging a child's self-esteem. They all turned out okay, but it was hilarious to read the teacher notes. 

Anyway, Labor Day weekend was for the garage sale. We'd separated out books, decorating stuff, crafty crap, clothes, shoes...all the normal garage sale stuff. We didn't really have anything big to sell, and still made about $300. Not too bad, and the rest of the stuff went to charity.

When we were going through Dad's closet, I pulled this out:

Metal box, marked with "Artstyle Chocolates." Inside, 

Mom told me the story. My daddy was the only boy of four children, and was something like 11 years younger than his closest sister. My aunt Billie was the only one that I'd ever known; his sister Blanche had died in a car accident when she was in her twenties. I knew the other sister had died before Daddy was born, but I'm not sure I ever knew the story. Dortha was about 14 or 15 when she contracted rabies and died, somewhere around 1930 or 1931. This box belonged to her. 

This wooden spool says "Tacky Party at Mrs. Bett's 1929 | This was part of Alton's beads." The wooden spoon: "Mary Wilma's party | July 20, 1929."

Check this one out:

A tiny celluloid doll from the Amarillo Fair in 1928. I wonder if she'd gone to the fair with friends or with family, did she win this or did someone give it to her...

This silk handkerchief looks hand-painted. Was it a gift? Did she draw this herself? Was she a swimmer?

Ribbons from school competitions:

Math and volleyball -- was she exploring her interests like you should in junior high? Was she really good and planning what she wanted to do in high school?

And then this:

Dortha was salutatorian of her 7th grade class, and this was her speech. "...I realize more fully that each day brings our [m]arks nearer to the end of the highway of life." She probably died within three years or so of this speech. 

She put things in this box, never knowing that she wouldn't get the chance to add to them with other special keepsakes in a few years. 

When we went through this box, I knew I didn't want her story to get lost in a couple of generations. I brought the box home with me and placed it on one of my bookshelves. I've told the story to my daughter and maybe she'll share it with her children someday. 

The theme of her speech was character, and included this story:
"Once upon a time, a certain owner of a large British estate called one of his faithful servants to him and said, 'I am going away upon a long journey. Select the spot on these beautiful grounds, and build there a house. Spare neither time or expense, but do it well.' The servant started the house and as the building went up, he from time to time would substitute old lumber in its construction. When finished, and painted, it looked fine and the key was turned over to the master upon his return. Then the master said, 'You have been a faithful servant. Take this key, the house is yours.' 'Alas,' thought the servant. 'If I had known it was mine, I would have built it differently.' And that's the way, as young people, we are building character. Let us resolve that as we go forth, we shall build wisely and well. Let us bear in mind that the things that we do go into the character which we are building, and when once placed there, they cannot be erased."

I think I would have liked knowing this aunt.

Do you have any family stories you're sure to keep telling? How are you making sure young family members don't completely lose the history?


  1. Wow. Amazing. I'm so glad you found this. :)

  2. Very, very, VERY cool!

  3. OMGoodness! I'm tearing up! What a sweet story! :) I love things like this...I AM the keeper of old treasures like this...the ones most people throw away or don't see the value in. I'm so glad you found this sweet box.
    (you might get this comment 3 times...sorry)


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