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Searching for Stories
Two and a half years ago, I wandered through each
empty room in my childhood home. Searching. The
last of the boxes were loaded in my truck, the estate
sale was over, and the remaining trash and debris
sat waiting at the curb for pickup. Over the course
of packing and unpacking the boxes, the searching continued. Many items had meticulous notes attached, clarifying the origins, the intended recipient, and details that seemed important at the time. Yet, many answers were not resolved.
In the cedar chest, between the folds of old tissue paper, lay a tiny blue outfit, clearly designed for a baby boy. I do not know the story; in fact, I do not recall ever seeing it when she would pack away the hand knit sweaters or other items. Perhaps it was a gift, a just-in-case gesture, a plausible option considering women like my mother never knew the gender of their children prior to their birth, most often unaware until they woke from the anesthesia. I longed for a brother, and the invitation for someone to choose that role remains open, even now. Regardless, the baby blue story is an unsolved mystery. Unlike other things she saved, there was no explanation. On the other hand, countless wedding gifts they received in the late
forties, were carefully stored with descriptions on note cards and who gifted them.
I chose to keep some things, many with stories, more without. The ones without stories call out to me, waiting for some sense of identity or closure. There is no one else to ask, no one who can fill in the blanks. My older sibling has no answers, my mother’s sister-in-law does not remember. I find myself wondering why my parents and grandparents kept the things they did. Was there a sentimental attachment, or was the item simply tucked away and forgotten?
Some things, like the grinding stones, were passed from one generation to the next. The stones carry stories, along with those shared by my Papaw. The smooth rocks are well-worn from use, imprinted with indentations of the hands that ground corn and other food stuffs; indentations that perfectly match my own handprint.Generational. And there are baby rings, a few bearing small garnets that sit in equally tiny ring boxes. I have no idea whose little hands sparkled with these infant rings. A glass case protects beautifully beaded moccasins, a gift from an Elder. Another passed her grandmother-drum to me, ready to sing. There are stories here, stories they shared with their gifts. The horn-handled awl; another generational gift, fits
comfortably in my hand. It has the feel of many stories, although the spoken words were lost when that family member went home to the stars years before I was birthed with a summer sunrise.
It is not surprising the majority of the heirlooms remaining with me are either natural or handmade. There are stories there. I do not know all of them, but I can feel them. The stones sing to me, singing as clearly as the crows that feast on the peanuts I leave on the flagstone rocks outside my door.
There is a sense of loss and occasionally a touch of ambiguity as I prepare the remaining items to sell or give away. The wounded part of my soul longs to know the stories, as if they might fill the missing spaces. My healing side understands the triggers, recognizing not all stories are meant to be shared. Nonetheless, there is a natural curiosity, especially when you have grown up with stories passed from one generation to another.
We are not meant to experience every story, even when we yearn to know. I will never know how my elder felt as her feet touched the earth in those beaded moccasins, but I can imagine seeing her dance. The empty places can be replenished with newer stories, like the joy of a family friend, gifted with some of my parent's belongings. The creation of new memories is an integral part of the cycle.
The winds carry words drifting in the currents, where the crows can pluck them from the branches of the oldest trees. They will sing, weaving stories from the Ancestors; and I will listen and smile.