Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Magpie Tales Tuesday

Today begins a new venture by that consummate blogger, Willow, called Magpie Tales. In Willow's own words, it is "dedicated to the enjoyment of writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well." She gives us a prompt every Thursday, and we write a piece of short fiction or poetry inspired by the prompt for posting the following Tuesday.

So, without further ado ...

A Piece of the Past

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 d├ęcor. 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:

Wedding gift from Josiah Weldon to Elizabeth Smith
June 18, 1762
Phila. Penna.

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.


  1. I was right there with baited breath as the items were discovered in the musty, cinnamony box. Lovely, lovely piece.

  2. Lovely descriptions! Wouldn't we all like an attic like that!

  3. I loved this! I was eagerly waiting to see what other treasures she would pull from the box! Very well done :)


  4. what a special little tale you wove...treasures found. very nice.

  5. I am such a sentimental sort, I loved your story. It did my heart good to think that there was something from her past that Lacy would treasure and keep on the kitchen mantle of her own home.

  6. This feels like the elegant beginning to a very good novel...more, please!

  7. That's a lovely story you've told with perfect details. I'd love to read more!

  8. You have exquisite attention to detail: riveting story. This piece is also reminisent of my own experience cleaning out my mom's house after her death.
    a pleasure to read.

  9. This feels like it could unravel a whole story later on.

  10. Lovely story. Waiting for more already!!

  11. More! Please? I can only imagine what my relatives have tossed out, not thinking if anyone would want parts of family history...alas!

    And I've seen too many things go to the junkman or landfill....

    Wonderful story here :)

  12. Willow: Thank you, thank you! This was a marvelous idea of yours and I can't wait to see what you have in store for us next.

    Vicki: Thanks for stopping by. I adored your piece.

    Jen: I wish I had a treasure box like that for my family.

    Brian: Thank you. I appreciate your encouragement.

    RNSANE: I'm very sentimental, too, as well as being a hopeful romantic.

    Lyn, Elizabeth, spacedlaw and geetly: More? Maybe some day. With a mystery attached to that creamer, eh?

    rel: Thank you so much. I drew inspiration from a similar experience, only I didn't have the pleasure of find a treasure box.

    subby: You're so right. I've actually purchased pieces of someone else's family history at garage sales and auctions just because it pained me to see it abandoned. (My hubby hopes there's a cure for that, though!)

  13. your work tugs at the heart strings...and the song it yearns to play, is a sentimental sonnet. well done.

  14. A beautifully-written story; I enjoyed it.

  15. Hi Patty, thanks for your visit. You are a gifted writer. I enjoyed your tale very much. Agree that story could continue. I try to learn a new word every day and effluvia is a new one for me. Now I will try to use it today. I love this idea of Willow's. I am not a poet, don't know all the rules of punctuation, etc, but love to put my thoughts down and call it a poem.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  16. Heh... it's always great to find hidden treasures, isn't it?

    I must admit, my "trash" box almost never gets filled. Bit of a packrat, I am.

  17. Love your story - we share a similar experience I do believe... it certainly evokes imagery for me, but then again, I recently packed up a fifteen room family home!! Thanks for sharing.

  18. This story kept me captivated from the start to finish.... the elements to it reminded me when I had to do this for my mother,, and even more recent I was helping a friend you must have been there in the attic with us... your story speaks volumes for many of us ...
    the dowsers daughter

  19. Very evocative! You could work this into a longer story or novel...

  20. For me this was like a dream come true. I think we all wish to stumble. on a mysterious box that will link us to our past. Delightfully told

  21. My excitement grew as I read. Great story -- and so true. Too many people don't know from where they come, because no one thinks it's important to share the stories.

  22. I came for sepia saturday, but your story here did not disappoint! You've got talent! I was sucked right in! :)