Trunk Full of Treasure

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(Excerpt from my mother’s memoirs which I will be publishing soon.  This is from my mother’s childhood, during The Great Depression)  The woman in the picture is my Great Grandmother Elvira Perkins Holdaway.  She is picture in her wedding dress, photographed just a few days before her death in 1903.  She had given birth to 12 children and was survived by only 4

A humpback metal trunk of old family treasures sat in Mama’s and Daddys’ bedroom.  Mama never minded if I dug through this trunk, as long as I carefully returned everything just as I found it. Over the years, I looked through it dozens of times, coming away with different impressions each time.  Resting on top was Grandma Holdway’s wedding dress, a sumptuous two piece ivory satin confection of tucks and lace.  The tucked bodice came just to the waist of the tiny waist band of the skirt.  Even as a small child, the waist was too small for me.  My grandmother had always been a thin woman, but she must have been well-corseted to have fit in that dress.  Amazingly, just days before she died, there is a picture of her taken in that same dress, though she had been gravely ill for a long time. A small mother-of- button was carved with an eight point star was pinned at the center of the high neck band.  Dozens of satin-covered-buttons fastened down its back, long full sleeves falling to its lace-trimmed cuffs.  Tiny, high button white boots of cracked leather rested beneath the wedding dress.  There was the precious tin box of special things Mama let me play with when I was sick as well as family photographs and letters.  Most unbelievable, was a packet of love letters Daddy had written to Mama after they were married. These were incongruously out of character for my stooped, skinny old Daddy and round Mama with her bun and missing teeth.

Though I had free access to the trunk, I didn’t want Mama to see me reading her letters.  I read them, carefully refolding and returning each just as I’d found it, all the while trying to reconcile the love Daddy expressing love like this for Mama.  More often than not, he grumped when he spoke to her now.

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40 thoughts on “Trunk Full of Treasure

  1. I love hearing your stories of back in the day for your family. You mentioned the one man who worked in an office. Did you mean that was in Red River County, TX? That is where all my husband’s family is from, for many years, and still live all around there…all those little towns. His sister lives in Paris, Tx. So interesting!

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  2. What a lovely post!! The final paragraph was particularly poignant, and I believe many old married couples become this way, sadly. We women go through menopause and get crabby, men have shrinking brains that make them more rigid in their thinking and attitude… it’s a wonder we live as long as we do. But, with 30 years of marriage under my proverbial belt, I am truly hoping to buck the trend and remain kind to my HH. He is a truly lovely person. I hope he never loses that part of himself. xx Dorreen

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  3. I love reading your stories. The photo attached to this is a wonder. In the picture your great grandmother looks young but that could be from the washed out effect. I think it’s amazing that she wore a wedding dress a few days before she died. I can’t help but think that a tight corset didn’t help.

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    • I wish you would. I’d love to know what interests you. This will be in my book. Neither of the parents could read nor write. The blond man with the bicycle is my Grandfather. He taught himself to read and write as an adult. The young man on the end who is stooped over was gored by a long-horned cow when he was only four years old. He was educated since he wouldn’t be able to do manual labor. He worked for several years in the clerk of court’s office in Red Rive County Texas. There was a sister who died at sixteen. She was about to start teaching in a rural school. She was riding a horse and got drenched in a sudden downpour. She developed galloping pneumonia and died that night. My grandma always swore it was because she was having her period, and insisted that getting wet during your period would kill you! She’d sneak around trying to catch girls having their periods and try to make them stay dry. It was horrible!

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      • Your stories are so fascinating. So happy I found your blog…..I was thinking when you love someone, really love them, shouldn’t it be sweet? At least most of the time. If love comes first, kindness is there and so is compassion. Why does it wane as time goes on; this love? Because kindness and compassion is no longer there and that breaks my heart. As with most things, it takes work. I believe humans are import and as such the human you profess to love should be ones greatest work. I can’t wait for your book to come out. So much of your writings give me pause and I am grateful. Best, Koko 🙂

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  4. An amazing picture. How interesting to know the end is near and be photographed in a wedding dress.Does your mother know what happened to the 8 who did not survive ? There must be a lot of stories there. Van

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    • Don’t know. He smoked like a chimney. The last few years he lived my Grandma got up many times a night, crept over to his cot and leaned over to make sure he was still breathing. He breathed so shallowly, it was hard to tell. Sometimes it took a minute or two. She said the night after he died was the first good night’s sleep she’d gotten for many years. He was down to less than a hundred pounds. He lit one cigarette off the other. He came to the table, but only ate a few bites of his eggs and a strip of bacon at breakfast.

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