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The keepers of memories

January 3, 2019

I had one great grandmother that I met and remember. It was my maternal grandpa's mom. I never got to meet him because he died way before I was even thought about. His mom lived till she was 78. I can only guess how terrible it must have been to have lost her son so early on.  


Great Grandma Helena used to make donuts for us - home-made, powder-sugar coated donuts that she served in a white bowl. She also tried to teach me how to sew using this Singer machine. Or was it the newer model that she had? I'm not sure now but the fact remains that the needle ran through my finger. Or did it? I remember my mom being upset about my Great Grandma teaching me, but I'm not so sure if the needle went through or not - it might have been just the thought that my mom scared me with... or maybe the handkerchief tied on my finger is just a flicker of imagination run in my head so many times that it became a true memory... I feel the same way about stepping on a rusty nail sticking out from a wooden plank in an old room that stored relics from the days long gone - a small stone mill and wooden corn separator, and lots of metal junk.


I just loved getting into cabinets, boxes, rooms, stables and anything old that I could lay my sight on. When I opened my Great Grandma's drawer or her wardrobe, there were so many untold stories staring back at me: the traditional paisley headscarves (that I took and wore as bandannas wrapped around my wrist or on my head after she passed away), crumpled sepia photographs, glass coffee sets, buttons, threads, needles... even a pitcher with shot glasses.


In the attic we would keep everything that we didn't use anymore but still held on to because it had too much value to be given away or destroyed: a spinning wheel that the women used to make the thread for cloth, handmade rugs, ancient linen fabric made from scratch and many, many other artifacts that store the secrets and realities of life once lived. When my aunt's husband was about my age, maybe a bit older, he decided it was time to clean the attic and so he burnt everything he found there, effectively getting rid of that link between the past and the present that old things and elderly people are the sacred keepers of. 


It was only last year when I realized the full impact of that blow onto my soul: several months after my Grandma passed away, I dreamed of her moving around in that very attic, bright and sun-lit, stuffed with white linen, old duvets, rugs and embroideries. She was organizing it all in there and when she looked up and saw me, she beamed with joy and so did I. I was so happy to see her strong, healthy and vigorous. I was so happy to see that she was alive somewhere.

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