So, without further ado ...
Lacy sneezed as she brushed the dust from her hands and stood to stretch. She’d been crawling around in her parents’ attic for hours and she was dirty, tired and hungry. She glanced at the floor around her, littered with the effluvia of a forty-eight year marriage, and three large boxes labeled “KEEP,” “SELL” and “TRASH.” There was a matching set of boxes in each room on each floor of the house. As was the case in all the other rooms, the attic’s “TRASH” box was nearly full and the “SELL” box was overflowing, but the “KEEP” box was pitifully empty. Lacy felt more than a twinge of guilt for that, but wasn’t about to second guess her decisions in order to ease her conscience.
Her mother’s sudden death only eight months after her father’s equally unexpected passing had left her the sole heir to a renovated childhood home full of stylish modern furnishings. Considering Lacy, a history professor, and her husband, Rob, a museum curator, had recently purchased a 1760s stone farmhouse, there was very little in her parents’ house which would fit with her colonial décor. They were working hard to get the home placed on the National Register of Historic Places and they had little use for contemporary pieces.
Lacy picked up the “KEEP” box and turned for the attic door. The auctioneer would be coming in the morning to begin appraising the items for sale, some of which were indeed antiques, just not antique enough to suit Lacy. She’d been truly amazed at all her parents had kept, secreted away in closets, in bureaus and under beds. Many of the hidden treasures brought back fond memories, which made it all the harder for her to place them in the boxes for auction.
Just as Lacy reached for the pull chain to turn out the light, she spied another box tucked in a dark corner behind the chimney. Placing the “KEEP” box on the floor, she pulled the flashlight out of her back pocket and shined the light into the shadows. “RCA” was the first thing she saw on the side of the box, and the second was “Oberholtzer/Stein,” her maternal grandmother’s maiden and married names.
Curiosity chased hunger and fatigue from her thoughts as Lacy dragged the heavy box to the center of the attic floor. She vaguely remembered her mother bringing home some things after her grandmother’s funeral, but she’d never questioned what her mother had done with them and had never given them another thought until this moment.
In the harsh light of the bare bulb, Lacy lifted out a well-worn patchwork quilt, the edges frayed with use. The initials “C.L.S.” and “1897” were embroidered in one of the corners. Catherine Louise Schauer, she thought to herself. That was her great-grandmother’s name, and she knew Catherine and William Oberholtzer were married in 1897, so perhaps Catherine had made it for her trousseau. It smelled musty, yet Lacy caught a whiff of something familiar, something spicy. Cinnamon, perhaps. Laying the quilt aside, she next pulled out a long, thin wooden box. Flipping the catch, she lifted the lid carefully, mindful of the delicacy of the hinges, to find an assortment of fountain pens and nibs nestled in the red velvet lining. Lacy smiled. Rob would enjoy displaying those on the rolltop desk they’d just refinished.
Lacy dug deeper in the box. Several photo albums, an old map, a family bible, a christening gown, a set of brass candlesticks and a bundle of old letters all found their way out of the box into her eager hands. Scattered around her lay remnants of her family history, most of which, much to her chagrin, she knew nothing about. How sad, she realized, that she knew so very much about Colonial and Revolutionary American history, yet her own personal origins remained a mystery.
One last item remained in the box. Wrapped in an old gingham-checked curtain Lacy found a pewter creamer. She marveled at its cool weight in her hand before tracing her finger over the delicate wreath pattern which graced its side. Turning the creamer over, Lacy was surprised to find a small strip of paper taped to the bottom of the creamer, right above the touchmark. The tape was browned with age, as was the paper, but Lacy was still able to read her grandmother’s writing:
June 18, 1762
Lacy stared at the treasure in her hands, her mind racing. Perhaps the family bible held clues to their identities, or maybe one of her uncles or her aunt would be able to tell her more. Anxious to share her discoveries with her husband and even more anxious to begin piecing together her past, Lacy hurriedly placed everything back in the box, except for the creamer, which she rewrapped in the curtain and carried by itself. She would give the creamer -- that small, tantalizing piece of her past – pride of place on the mantle over the fireplace in her kitchen and share its special significance with every guest who crossed her threshold.