The boxes are emptied, the photos in piles. I've gone through the newspapers and clipped what I felt I would keep and tossed the rest. My dining room table is still in a disarray but what a treasure hunt!
That box that said "Bebe" on the side, the one that had the oddest collection of my Grandmother's, my Nan's belongings is the one I hoped to find and I did. It didn't contain all that I wanted but I found the photo I was looking for in another box and that put a smile on my face and heart. My Nan in her nurse's uniform. You see my Nan was a public nurse. I had heard she would go to folk's homes to tend to them when they were ill, driving her car to where they lived. All by herself with no doctor, on quiet country roads. Perhaps she even did a bit of midwifery for the country ladies. Later she worked in hospitals as a Surgical Nurse. I would love to have heard her stories of those times. I think she tended folks too poor to see a doctor as a Public Nurse. My Nan had such a good bedside manner. I never really minded being sick as she would bring me my meals on an aluminum tray as I was propped up in my bed with pillows. She took my temperature and kept me comfortable with all the love a Grandmother could give as well.
What I didn't expect to find was her Nurse's cap. Still stiff with heavy starch. It was spotted with a rusty color all over it and smelled of that musty odor that my nose wrinkled up too. My Nan's cap. Those were the days of the white cap, white uniform dress, white hose and white shoes. She was a registered nurse that was given much respect by her peers. She had years of experience.
I took that cap and brushed it with my special mix of hydrogen peroxide mixed with powdered Oxy Clean to make a thin paste. I let it sit all day and then soaked it all night in a bowl of cold water and Woolite. The next day nary a spot was in sight. My Nan's cap pure white. Tomorrow I will press it stiff just as she would have. She would have put in on her head with hair pins to hold it in place for her hours of work.
I found a pile of hankies, equally spotted and stained. I did the same with them as the cap. No spots to mar them. Each different and dainty. I can't say that I saw her use them all the time but I know she used tissue that she would tuck in the sleeve of her sweater to dab her nose. I wonder if I gave her one of these hankies that I have in the pile? The one with tiny red hearts around the edge? The one with little flowers of blue? Just the kind of gift a little Granddaughter would give her Grandmother.
That box contained an old bra, a girdle, two pair of hose, two slips with one of white and one black, and a pair of her glasses in a gold cardboard box with a pink paper flower on top. Why my mom saved her under garments I do not know and I never will. My daughters were intrigued by these relics.
As I attempted to make order in my dining room by separating the stuff I had trashed into recycle and garbage boxes, I came upon some wad of paper stuck to the bottom. I don't know what made me try to get this out but I did. It was unrecognizable of what it was, a foot long and a smashed roll of stiff paper with some rot on the bottom that was black. Not good. I tried to open it without success as I could see that it was more than just one paper. I don't really know why I even kept trying but I gently rolled it between my palms and low and behold a seam opened. I was able to unroll it and what I found was my Grandmother's Nursing credentials. Two of them from 1925 from the school she went to in Tennessee! How did they wind up so smashed up? Why weren't they in a frame or rolled in a tube? All those years buried at the bottom of a rotting box and I just happened to give that box one more look before I took it out to the garbage.
I don't know why I have become the custodian of the family treasures. I do think I was destined for this though. I am the keeper. The older I become the more protective I become of what was "special" long ago. I don't know what will become of what I so eagerly try to archive but I will take all the care in the world to help it find a safe spot of honor while I breath in this world.