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A Timeless Tale: How It Begins

Following in the footsteps of her father, Tracey continues to trace their family genealogy. Along the way, she finds ways to bridge time.

timeless-tales

October 21, 2021

I don’t know why I decided today is the day to start keeping a diary. Perhaps passing the year and a half mark of the Pandemic planted a seed in me. “Is it really worth documenting something everyone is experiencing?” The media keeps comparing this time to a previous pandemic of “the Spanish Flu”. In 1918 it killed 50 million people! I remember being told my own family suffering the loss of my baby uncle. Pieces of my father’s stories always set my curiosity wandering imagining what his childhood life was like. My father being the oldest of three, often recalled their loss. Robert contracted the flu when he was only two. The town sits a good five miles from their little farmhouse and the nearest neighbor half that distance from them. “What medical care came to their aid? How did the pandemic reach them in the middle of a small mountain town? I suppose public exposure isn’t like today. Of course, medical advancements since then are a considerable factor. “Did my grandparents understand the dangers of the flu?” Certainly, the media isn’t as predominant in those days as now. Did people see the epidemic affects on their community or secluded from the facts? “I know, I know everybody’s sick of hearing about it.” At last count the death rate today is creeping right about the four and a half million mark. The whole thing is so surreal! My daily life seems normal enough until I go outside the yard’s boundaries. But once I go beyond the gate, it’s like getting hit by a brick of reality!

Brave New World

No one could imagine how dramatically the world would change overnight! I’ll never forget hearing the Governor declaring a State of Emergency. It was a pre-St. Patrick’s Day party with a few close friends over. An early Spring evening still chilly with the clasp of winter in it, so we wore sweaters to keep warm. Our hatch to the basement let in the cool air and cleared it of any lingering cigarette smoke. The TV is playing the five o’clock news in the background. Passing a glass of ice across the table, my husband filled my drink as the words “Lockdown” rang in my ears. We all looked at the television and back to each other, anticipating someone to say something. Finally Rick calmly asks “Anyone else need a refill?” Was my husband’s way of breaking the silence.

Rick came home the night before from The Millworks. As “an essential worker”, his job did not get effected when the city shut down. “Who would have ever thought the city could shutdown! Facing the pandemic was not new to him. He told me of the multiple portable morgues positioned around the city streets. After months of quarantine getting home meant more than usual to him. The possibility of the pandemic spreading here finally became reality!

We are the last of five states to fall under lockdown! Of course, the evening’s conversation circled our table of friends’ with each giving their own take on the matter. Everyone except for Ike and I are considered “essential workers”. “Residentials”, while a vital community part by taking care of personal living accommodations. Ike raised his glass. A good hearted man who always has a genuine sense of happiness about him. His smile welcoming and his laugh deep with emotion. Commemorating the moment he continues “and here’s to Today!” Swallowing with hesitation, not purposely, but my drink seemed to get stuck deep in my throat. My eyes were filling with water while my mouth burned pleasantly warm from the whiskey. Looking around at the other’s, I was searching for a hint of their reaction.

A look of concern covers Ree’s face. I know she’s thinking of her children. They both serve in the Millworks headquarters. Nervously hopeful she commented “it’ll be fine”. She carried on the conversation commenting, “I called them earlier and they explained there is a strict protocol to minimize contamination, so not to worry!” My youngest son, sitting quietly to the side during all this, decides its time for his take of the situation. Always current on conspiracy theories and countless versions of news reports he simply waved his glass in a millennial passiveness way he wished, “here’s to all you old folk”! It is his way of convincing Ree there is no need to fret. Not that we are elderly or such, but we all know those most effected by the disease were over the age of Forty.

“Just thinking about it gives me the shivers!” Simple tasks we now know we took for granted, are no longer simple. Shopping for groceries today like I have every Saturday for years, I sat in my car holding the paper surgical mask in my hand. A stunted breath stuck in my throat, as I see all the others walking past my car. The line to go in is growing since only so many customers are allowed to enter at a time. All of a sudden, a scuffle started in the line. Someone sneaking a spot in line? “Or worse, did someone cough!” I tried to gulp down the grip I felt in my throat enough to place the mask over my face. In the door, a makeshift gate made with a table and vegetable crates blocked the way, armed with a thermometer the young store clerk aimed it at my forehead. Her monotone voice emphasizing the practiced script. “You can go through … please use the sanitizer first.” Shifting her hair to the side, her glance hardly changed to welcome the next person in line. My eyes surveyed the supermarket quickly assessing the path mapped out on the floor we were to follow.

New England Foliage

timeless-tales

October 8, 2021

Today I really amazed myself! A whole week has vanished before I realized it. Honestly, I forgot about starting to write a diary! I am not good with habits, whether it’s breaking bad ones or starting good ones. I’m not quite sure where time went. One day blends into another and before I know it a week is gone. Rick’s call this morning reminded me to pull my planner back out before starting my day. Adding his requests fills today’s agenda, but at least I keep busy. It’s not easy for either one of us being separated so much. At least here, the kids and basically running three households occupy my time. Unfortunately for him, under lockdown all he can do is look at the hotel room’s four walls. Obviously, we stay in constant contact for both emotional and practical reasons, otherwise we would both go crazy! While we are more than accustomed to being apart a good amount of time, the last few years his travel is considerably more. He travels eighty percent of the year to different Millwork headquarters. Scattered all around the country, the Millwork is a government headed network controlling our power grids and supply chains. Rick grew up within its workings, now he heads most projects. The running joke between us is “we’ve managed to stay married so long because he’s been gone most of the time!”

“Totally not true! Rick is my best friend!” Partners in life, he and I can honestly say our marriage vows survived many tests. Learning love isn’t enough is probably the hardest lesson we had to learn. I being young and naïve in combination with Rick’s strong willed personality provided a rocky beginning to say the least. We literally come from two separate backgrounds. Mine is long substantiated in Residential lineage and he from the Millworks. Sadly facts are, “being different isn’t smiled upon around here.” “Sounds so stereotypical I realize, but nonetheless.” Fate bringing us together didn’t necessarily mean everlasting happiness!

So re-examining today’s agenda, I see a trip to town is in the cards. Call it “cheap” or “frugal” but I consider it smart planning to conglomerate all my errands into one day. “Mmmm, coffee smells terrific!” Nothing comes close to that first sip each morning. It isn’t a chilly morning, in fact it’s warmer than most Fall days. Even still, the coffee is a comforting way to wake up. A bitter sweet taste because I like my coffee strong with a touch of sweet creamer. In a fashion, I guess it’s kinda comparable to life when you think about it. “Oops, back on track.” First comes a stop at the post office to pick up the mail.

There are technically two post offices in town separating the Millworks from the Residentials. Turning onto the main road, I slid open my sunroof. My body welcoming the warmth of the sun. It didn’t take long to before I can feel it burning my skin. Spending so much time constrained inside, it is just one of the consequences. There are so many things sorely missed. But my spirits lifting from the light, I began looking around as I drove. Dropping from the blue sky brightly colored trees framed the hillsides. Heading toward the Residential post office, I followed the road down to the Four Corners. “Good mornin, Emmy!” Said Milly. Milly is our postmaster. Her smile could be seen grinning over her mask as she greeted me.

“I’m glad you came in today, Emmy.” as she continued walking over to the counter. I am always happy to see Milly. We’ve known each other forever, first as children and then our own families growing up together. Her smile is contagious, I couldn’t help smile myself! “But what was so special about coming in today?” With her head down beneath the bench, I could hear her mumbling. Finally, she excitedly stood up! Like the tension of a spring being released, Milly started spilling out words at a mile a minute. “Slow down, Milly! I haven’t understood a word you are saying.” I can see her take in a deep breath through her mask. It seemed so deep I actually could see the outline of her mouth.

“Look!” And she points down to a brown paper wrapped bundle on the counter. Upon closer inspection, I note a baby pink colored ribbon crisscrossing it’s corners and pinned with a pearl brooch. Milly seen the questions building in my eyes, “it’s your grandmother’s! I am trying to condense things in the storage area. That’s where I found it!” My blank expression must have made her need to carry on. So she began adding, “these things have been buried since before the Parting!” The Parting is what people call the period of time the country split up. Upset at the lack of my reaction, Milly slid the bundle closer to me. “You really aren’t excited?” She asked.

Shadows of the Past

timeless-tales

October 11,2021

“I can’t sleep!” The night is unusually hot. Although nothing, even the weather, is much of a surprise anymore. This year our storms are both more often and more severe. If the rain isn’t flooding our fields, the heat is burning them up! Weather like this is not normal, in fact, no one remembers anything like it before. My sheet heavy on my skin, comfort is all I want. I can hear the crickets singing their symphony loudly out from the woods around the house. Switching on my bedside lamp starts my brain working and automatically I’m slipping on my slippers. Sitting there I’m wondering, “okay so now what? It’s three o clock in the morning. I can turn on the television and mindlessly stare at the screen or”…my eyes fall on Milly’s mysterious find.

Over at my bureau, I lift up the brown bundle. It is heavy in my hands. The wrapping is actually an aged damask cloth, not brown paper as I originally thought. As I first noticed it is tied with a pale pink ribbon. An antiqued hue making the tatted edged ribbon look paler than expected hints at its age. A pearl brooch marks the middle in a very feminine fashion. The brooch itself shimmering in the light from under years of dust. The pin’s delicate lace-like metal work is deceiving, its much weightier! The finely crafted cross holds several pearls of various sizes. Carrying it over to my reading table, I set it down. My back straight against the chair, as if I think the bundle is out of my reach. A strange shiver sends goosebumps over my arms. Since no breeze is available I am a bit unsettled. “What attachment is there to this package from the past, my grandmother, and The Parting?”

Not sure why I am being so silly! After all, it’s just a box. “So what if it is my grandmother’s? I have other artifacts belonging to her!” Stepping over to my secretary desk, I selected a family photo album and the family bible. For as long as I can remember the glass paned doors of the desk protected these heirlooms. The pink velvet cover plush with stuffing cushioned the memories between the pages. I lifted the bronze latch to open it carefully. Scanning over the first few pages the pictures flipped by like a slideshow, replaying fond memories with my parents. Further back, “there these are the pictures I want!”

Like frozen in time, she stares back up at me. Silent, still, and staring! First pictured sitting on porch steps, Pearl Lambert Baldric, ten years old with her primped curls. The black and white print suggested a starchiness no ten year old should show! When I was ten years old, I out played most of the boys While the photos are black and white, there is a type of color tint to them. Logically because her hair reflects light within the waves of curls, it’s probably a lighter shade such as blonde. Wearing what I am guessing is a navy blue pleated mid-legged skirt with a white long sleeve, ruffled wide collared shirt she looks as uncomfortable as I imagine. Conservative frocks are fashionable at this time, especially for children so blues, brown, black, and gray are likely.

Another picture, now of Pearl’s graduation. A “Senior Picture” in today’s terms. I think I wore jeans and a black button up shirt accented with gold thread in mine. I am never comfortable getting “dolled up!” Of course all clothing is different at the turn of the century. The portrait shows her sitting tall in a large ornate chair. Her height is accentuated by a lace collar reaching to the top of her throat and then carrying her profile further upwards is a very Victorian style bouffant hair. While the white high collared gown sewn with silk and lace flows all the way down to the floor. She sits stiffly with her alabaster gloved arms down at her sides portraying her family’s prosperity. “There are those eyes again! Staring out at me from time.” By this time, the farmhouse in the country is left behind and she lives in the center of town. It’s large front porch overlooks Main St. in grandeur. They are well respected. Her father very active in town politics. Her mother at the head of many women’s groups. She, herself is well educated and seated to climb the circles of social prominence.

After looking over a few more photographs, I notice she is always sitting alone. “Why is she the only one in the pictures?” I need to learn more. Standing over my reading table, I reach for the wrapped bundle. No longer can I wait! My Hands nervously picking it up, I worked at unclasping the pin. There it is. The bundle’s contents freed out onto the table. “Its, it’s a…It’s a BOOK!” A book. I heard myself chuckle out loud as I envisioned how humorous it will be when I tell Milly.

Hidden Meanings

timeless-tales

© 2022 Tracey Walsh