Thursday, October 30, 2008
The Trunk and Grey's Anatomy
I had a trunk as many college students had in the 60's that I used to ship the bulk of my clothes and personal effects to college, and most importantly to Germany in 1966 for my Junior Year Abroad. The trunk went with me to New York after college, and was a major piece of furniture in my studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights while I attended NYU.
After I quit graduate school and got married, I was ready to give up the apartment. I had a two year lease with an escape clause so I could leave before the two years if I wanted to. My brother Michael convinced me to sub-let the apartment to his friend Morgan the summer of 1968, so I left all my "furniture" in the apartment. The furniture consisted of a studio couch, a card table and four chairs, and the trunk.
The trunk contained assorted personal effects including a shoe-box full of letters from friends including ones from Jimmy. At the end of the summer, Morgan went back to Petersburg and Michael asked what to do with the furniture. I wanted to move it to New Jersey where I lived with my husband, but he didn't want anything to do with my pre-marriage baggage. He insisted we had no place to put it, although the apartment building provided a storage space in the basement for each apartment.
Michael agreed to move the stuff since he lived just around the corner in Brooklyn Heights. So he took the studio couch, card table and chairs, and the trunk. In 1975 my husband and I moved to Raleigh. Michael and his wife moved to Bloomington Indiana, taking all my old stuff. I remembered the letters, the two pieces of artwork from Jimmy, as well as my old collection of 45 RPM records in the trunk. By then I knew it was pointless to talk about retrieving the trunk.
After Michael had been in Bloomington for a few years, they had a house fire. Michael had been at home alone with his two little daughters. He built a fire in the fireplace in the family room and did something that firemen always warn against. He tried using charcoal lighter to get the fire burning. The flames traveled up the stream to the can of lighter and quickly ignited the room. Michael grabbed the girls, got them out unharmed and closed the fire-door to the family room. The fire was contained in that one room. Michael told me later that his piano was destroyed, along with my trunk and its contents. He said the 45 RPM's melted into one solid piece.
So I let go of the memory. But then Michael resurfaced with those 2 pieces of artwork to give to my daughter after we found each other. Among all the other old stuff he has been carrying with him from place to place, he recently found the box of letters, which he brought back with him from Ghana.
I wrote my book "as well as I could remember it" without the benefit of those 42-year-old letters. Michael thought there might be some surprises of things I had mis-remembered. There were a few. The biggest surprise was the letters from my Daddy. I had forgotten that he had written at all. The letters from Jimmy were more in number than I remembered, but the content was mostly as I remembered. The other big surprise was a series of letters from Sheltering Arms. I had forgotten the name of the adoption agency altogether until my son found them in 1998.
After seeing the last scene of the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, where Meredith opens a box of her late mother’s journals, I’m glad that I burned my old journals years ago, but I wonder what I should do with those old letters.
If you haven’t read my book, you may not be able to understand this blog.