The Place of Forgotten Remembrances

[Fiction] Friday Challenge #166  for July 30th, 2010

A covert trip into an attic reveals something unexpected.

Jessica picked up the centrepiece of the cupboard, an unopened tin of food that had no label.  The edges showed flecks of rust, the sides spotted with black marks.

“Nanna, why don’t you ever open it?” said Luke, fifteen and Jessica’s older twin (by four minutes as he liked to point out).

“Because I like to keep it a mystery.  It could be anything in that tin.  Not knowing what’s in there makes it a mystery.  And we all like to have secrets that no one knows about.”

“Well, I’m going to set up a stand at the next school fete and charge people fifty cents to come and gawk at The Tin of Mystery.”  Luke waved his hands like a conjuror and broke into a laugh.

“Nanna, are we going to have chocolate barbarian cheesecake for dessert?” said Jessica.

“Yes, we are having chocolate Bavarian cheesecake for dessert.  Run along, but don’t go too far as lunch is almost ready.”

“We’d better go before Nannaggedon descends upon us,” said Luke as he walked out beside Jessica, fearful they would be given a job to do.

Sunday lunch at Nanna’s house was a ritual, a tradition that bound the family together.  The meal never varied, save for dessert.  A leg of lamb roasted with rosemary, baked potatoes, carrots and pumpkin, a tureen of peas you could swim in and a gravy boat slopping with a thick, brown sauce made from scratch (Nanna would never have used the powdered variety).

Nanna had rebelled from the austere, formal meals of her parents, preferring the chatter of children and the laughter of family to be shared as entrees and aperitifs alongside the soup.

“Hey, Jessica, come and check out the attic.”

“But we’re not supposed to go in there.”

“We won’t be long ‘cause lunch is finished and everyone else is busy cleaning up.”

Jessica followed Luke up the stairs and pushed open the door.  The air was stale and dry with a thin film of dust.

“Reckon we’ll find some shrunken heads, or even Christmas presents?” said Luke.

The attic was Nanna’s place of forgetful remembrances, a place to store miscellaneous trinkets and memories.  Luke spotted a cardboard box newer than the rest.  Peeling back the flaps he peered inside with Jessica over his shoulder.  On top rested a khaki officer’s hat, the army insignia a tarnished bronze.

“That must be Grandpa’s hat from the war,” said Jessica.  Luke picked up the hat to see what was beneath.

“It’s like a music box or a jewellery box,” said Jessica picking it up and opening the lid.  Inside was a brown paper bag.  Jessica unfolded the mouth of bag and drew out its contents: a sepia photograph, a lock of hair tied with white cotton and a postcard.

Jessica took the edge of the photograph and ran her finger around the edge.

“It looks like Nanna, but heaps young and what’s she holding?”
“Looks like a doll,” said Luke.
“Can’t be.   It’s a baby.”

The woman in the photograph wore a simple summer dress and cradled the baby who wore a lace bonnet and was dressed in a long smock.

“Do you reckon the baby in the photo is Mum?” said Luke.

“I’ve never seen this photo before in any of the photo albums.  So why have this one hidden away?”
Jessica turned the photograph over and on the back in pencil was written “December, 1940.”  “That’s seven years before Mum was born.”

“So was this Nanna’s younger sister or something?”
“I don’t know.  I thought she was the only girl with four brothers, but in this photo, Nanna is quite young and she was the last of the family.”

“Was it Nanna’s baby?” Luke said.

He turned the post card over and read the brief note, Dear Hazel, thanks for the photograph.  Wish that I could be there.  With love, Alfred.

“This must be from Grandpa during in the war.”

“But if it’s not Mum in the picture and it’s not a younger sibling, then who is it?” said Jessica.

“Could be a cousin or some other relative.”
“But it doesn’t make sense to keep a photo, a lock of hair and the postcard.  What if the baby was Nanna’s?  Before Mum?  If it is, why keep it a secret?”

“Maybe it’s like the tin in the cupboard?  A secret stays hidden because it’s meant to.”

19 responses to “The Place of Forgotten Remembrances

  1. I shouldn’t apologise for what I write; it’s probably my inner critic. I am not happy with this piece because it is not how I wanted it, but nothing was working for me. I created the incident in my head, but it turned out that the reader has to fill in some gaps as they suppose the story goes. If I was to go back and rework this, I would find another angle to engage with the pathos that this story had in my mind. If you want to know, ask and I’ll fill you in.
    Almost didn’t post this because I think it is total excrement.

  2. I do hope they don’t ask who the baby is – they could seriously upset their nanna! I love your descriptions in this, especially of the attic itself.

  3. I concur with Nanna, gravy must always be made from scratch, I’m sure she would also have made it using the juices from the cooked meat. I like the simplicity of the story, particularly at this time on a Friday night!
    Though, looking at the story, many people married younger, so would there have been less of a gap than the 7 years stated?

  4. itallmeanssomething

    Old family photos are so amazing in that they reveal things about people and relationships.So often the people are gone and can’t tell you about the pictures. I think you have a wonderful premise for a story here. I really wanted to know more. oh and…mmm, bavarian cheesecake.

  5. I have been doing a little research into the family geneology so I can really relate to this story. I have found so many pictures of family members but they have no meaning to me because I didn’t know them personally or their precious memories. That is why it is important now for me to find out as much about them as possible. I like this story because it makes me think about what future generations will think about us when they look at our photos. Also Nana sounds like a great cook!

  6. I don’t know why you’re not happy with this piece.
    This one touches me a little since I’m just getting into genealogy and am finding photos of people I never even knew existed.

    • I’m not happy with this piece because I envisioned so much more for it. The scenario I planned involved the couple falling pregnant just before he left for the war and they were not married. The child died of scarlet fever. After the war, the couple married. I was aiming for an exploration of the shame and embarrassment to a family, and the bond between mother/father and child, but it just wasn’t falling into place. Therefore I left it as unanswered questions. There is room for a second installment to play this out.

  7. I think you sell yourself short. I, personally, love a good mystery and a story that leaves me with questions in my head. This feels like something you could easily expand into a short story or more. I loved the humor in the dialogue, and I thought it was a great foil for the sense of sadness the picture brought up. Nicely done.

  8. There a kind of bias we have towards our grandparents generation that implies they have always been grandparents and not allowed to have made the same mistakes as us or to possess any skeletons in their closets. This piece stirs up those muddy waters really well. I particularly thought the juxtaposition with the tin in the cupboard was sweet.

  9. Give yourself a break. While the piece is a little rough, it definitely has potential and deserves a rewrite. The premise of the children discovering a family mystery in the attic is great.

    The dialog works beautifully. I especially liked the line “Nanna, are we going to have chocolate barbarian cheesecake for dessert?” So cute.

    The mystery tin was a great way to tie the story together.

  10. I really enjoyed this. I’m curious as to who the baby in the photo is (though I can infer) and I really like the nanna. 🙂

  11. Part of your story reminds me of my childhood. Every Sunday our family would get together at my Great Grandmothers house for dinner. Often times her small dining room would be overflowing with people and we would have to eat in shifts.

    I think my Great Grandmother would turn over in her grave if she knew I married a woman that made gravy and mashed potatoes from the contents of a box.

    The premise of finding something intriguing tucked away in a relatives house is great. As children we always stumble onto something tucked away somewhere that raises eyebrows and is meant to be kept aside.

    I enjoyed reading this piece but think your comment to John tells a much stronger story. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the passing of the child and how the unwed family coped.

  12. This is a lovely story as it is. Another installment would be delightful, too, though. But it’s certainly NOT excrement.

    And now I’m starving, by the way. 🙂

  13. Yes definitely not excrement, I felt sad for nanna and the baby that was never known. At first I thought the baby was born to another man who went to war and was killed, and then nanna met another man who became Luke and Jessica’s grandfather and married him. I wondered if the baby was given up for adoption or if it died. I then read what you said so you answered my questions!

  14. That was really interesting what they found. I love how you keep it shrouded in mystery. Maybe you can continue this story? I liked the dialogue and descriptiveness. 🙂

  15. I think this story works so well because of the mystery. We can guess what happened, but since we don’t know for sure, it keeps us thinking. I think this is an excellent one.

  16. What I really like about this is the way that Jessica keeps pushing and asking and asking – it’s very realistic of a child. Love it.

  17. Excrement?! Not at all! I rather like being left with questions at the end. To put in all that you wanted to (as in your comment at 4:03am Aug 1st) in 1000 words would be a pretty huge task, and you would end up having to deprive the reader of the build-up, and the setting out of the children. I think the mention of the war, the postcard and the seven years was enough to send the reader in the right direction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s