The attic was dim and musky. Shrouds of dust clung tightly to various forgotten relics. A lampshade circa 1890 looked drenched in the dirt. Cobwebs twinkled in beams of sunlight just out of your line of sight. Memories and memorabilia were all shelved away here.
Sophie sighed heavily. What was it she was looking for? Oh, right. It was grandma’s old senior yearbook. The matriarch couldn’t remember the name of a girl she used to bum cigarettes off of. Silly really. Still, when grandma Stein says “jump” you say, “How high?”
Spying an oaken trunk under some quilts, Sophie glides towards it. The MIA yearbook might be hidden there. (You know, for safe keeping). With careful hands, the lock is undone and the lid swung wide. Frowning, the granddaughter is disappointed. All she finds are old letters and pictures.
Feeling defeated, curiosity then takes its hold instead of blind purposefulness. Sophie rummages through faded penmanship, scuttling past old time photographs and leather bound diaries. Eventually, her green eyed gaze settles on a bundle of correspondence. It’s in another language.
The paper smells of exotic perfume; the various messages are bound together, carefully, in pink ribbon. Delicately these mystery letters are brought to rest upon Sophie’s lap. She peruses their contents. Ah, love letters.
Though the scrawl remained alien, the story of these notes rung loudly. A lock of raven hair in one envelope (Grandma Stein’s) was a symbol of fidelity. The pictures of two youngsters (one in uniform and the other a swing dress) displayed puppy love. The way this man looked at Sophie’s grandma was breathtaking. As if grandma were the only woman in the world to him; as if she were a goddess divine and he a devout follower.
More letters, more evidence of a past life Sophie knew nothing about. Dance cards with his name repeated over and over again. Ticket stubs to plays and movies they must have seen together. A tear stained paper, official looking, mentioning a word Sophie did know “death.”
This gentleman (no, kid) must have died in action. Suddenly ashamed of her snooping, Sophie hastily discarded these mementos back inside Grandma Stein’s trunk. Slam! The closing of the trunk reminded Sophie of the closing of a coffin lid.
It was easy to forget that your parents (and their parents) had lived long winding lives before you knew them. Grandma had loved and lost and laughed and despaired with another before marrying Grandpa. Was that why their union had always seemed a cold one? Had Grandma settled? Losing all of her hope after he had died on the battlefield? Far from home and fatally wounded? Sophie couldn’t say (though her heart seemed to know).
“What is taking so long?” It was Grandma Stein (or Margo once upon a time). “Nothing,” Sophie replied. Her voice was shaking. “Just can’t find your yearbook. Sorry.” The sorry came out defeated and weak. There was a pause then, “No worries child. Let us eat some cookies. I’ve got plenty of cookies. You come down now please.” Sophie nodded, following the airy voice of a woman she hardly knew, but was going to make an effort to know now.