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Boxes of Memories

This week’s blog features another four-prompt short story minus my four-prompt private eyes. The items to challenge me this time were:

A 1952 Plymouth owner’s manual

A huge pine cone

A Jefferson Electric ‘Golden Hour’ desk clock

An aged violin

Scanning the above items in search of a story line, a fictionalized version of some of my childhood remembrances began to materialize. Hope you enjoy the outcome.  

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Boxes of Memories

Some people say memories are to be cherished. Others have implied that memories are best served over ice, with lots of vodka. Apparently, those latter folks’ recollections must be pretty rotten––that or booze is the only way they can tolerate to reignite their past. I, for one, enjoy my personal history, and the items I randomly encounter––or keep about me––that remind me of who I am and where I came from…including this tale.

In preparation for another holiday season, the Admiral gave me an assignment: search the overstuffed shelves in the basement for boxes labeled Christmas Decorations. I’d lovingly and respectfully designated my wife “the Admiral”once I recognized that most lengthy marriages feature a chain of command. And, although most men like to think they’re the Captains of their ships, even Captains report to Admirals, right? Anyway, immersed in my duties downstairs, I rearranged cardboard and plastic containers to locate the multitude of Yuletide goodies until one of the storage bins caused me to detour. Always one to find pleasure in the past (okay, granted there are some memories that should not be relived), I grabbed the box labeled Family Photos.

After scanning left then right––all clear––I lifted the lid to reveal a stack of matte-finished photographs in a variety of sizes. Some 8X10s were encased in fiberboard frames with the photographer’s business name etched at the bottom corner, while other, smaller snapshots lay loose inside the plastic bin. Beneath them all,rows of photo-finisher envelopes held glossy pictures, most of them black-and-white, a few printed in color. Despite the many subjects’ youthful appearances in the dated, matte photos, I recognized quite a few faces. Some folks’ stoic mugs, however, were beyond my comprehension. A smile stretched my cheeks as I shuffled through the assorted images.

Once my curiosity was satisfied, I carefully replaced all the photos, closed the lid, and returned Family Photos to the shelving only to have another box labeled Misc. Family Stuff catch my attention. Oh boy.

I unfolded the cardboard box’s interlocked flaps. A Jefferson Electric “Golden Hour”desk clock stood out from the rest of the items. The timepiece had belonged to my uncle and had been prominently placed in his office. The hour and minute hands were centered on a clear glass disc, surrounded by a gold-colored ring. Its obvious lack of gears and motors had always fascinated me. How did it work? How could it work? I recalled staring at the clock and listening. No tick-tocks, no distinct whirring, yet the minute hand slowly moved. As the minutes passed through a full rotation, the hour hand advanced as well. WOW! Had to be magic.

I smirked, remembering the year the Golden Hour came into my possession––intact but inoperable. Because of my personal attachment to the clock and the mystery it continued to hold (and because tinkering is in my genes) I had to resolve the clock’s functional illusion and try to revive it. Through cautious disassembly and cleaning, I finally unveiled the mystery. But, alas, the tiny drive motor concealed in the base was too tired to slowly turn the glass disc any more.

After placing the desk clock aside, I rummaged through the remaining miscellaneous contents. A 1952 Plymouth owner’s manual lay at the bottom of the box. With the booklet in hand, my mind immediately followed a path to another time in my youth.

The gray, two-door, ’52 Plymouth Suburban was our family vehicle––Mom and Dad upfront, me and my two brothers in the back. Depending on my older brothers’moods, “in back” for me sometimes meant the station wagon’s cargo area. Being the youngest passenger had its advantages and disadvantages. Sure, it was lonely “in back,” but I no longer got elbowed from both sides.

I chuckled as our first out-of-state family vacation came to mind. On the road together for up to eight hours a day had been unfamiliar territory. “Are we there yet?” became my new mantra. Were it not for the luggage stowed in the rear, I definitely would have been shoved back there––even Mom and Dad would have approved. For an entire week, butts on the car seats represented much of our routine.

Our destination that year was Colorado’s Rocky Mountain peaks. A flat tire during the second day from home delayed our arrival and further tested Dad’s endurance.Every piece of luggage he’d precisely crammed into the cargo area had to be unpacked and placed along the roadside in order to remove the cover that concealed the spare and the jack. A hovering audience of four, Mom, my brothers, and I followed Dad through each step of the tire swap. Because “Are we there yet?”had drawn unfavorable reviews, “Are you done yet?” didn’t seem like a better alternative,so I remained mute. Several choice words, tense moments, and a sweaty brow later, Dad had us repacked and rolling down the highway toward a motel in Colorado Springs. The following morning we hopped in the Plymouth again and drove the dirt road to the top of Pike’s Peak.

I grinned. Had I gone through each of the envelopes inside the plastic, Family Photos container, I would have found several pictures of my brothers and me tossing snowballs at each other in July at 14, 000 feet. Additional vacation photos would have shown me holding a huge pine cone in Rocky Mountain National Park. Placed beside my head, the conifer dropping was nearly half as large as my six-year-old face. Another envelope would have chronicled our brief stop at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, where we learned about the hotel’s original owner, F.O. Stanley. Not only had the man helped develop the Stanley Steamer automobiles, and improved the photographic dry plate process, he’d also built the first electric power plant in Estes, and made violins. At least one of our photos would have captured the image of an aged violin on display that Stanley had handcrafted.

My mind continued to drift as the door to the stairwell creaked.

“Hey, you fall asleep down there?” The Admiral.

I smiled. “No, just got sidetracked. Be up in a minute.”

I repacked the cardboard box, set it aside, then pulled the containers labeled Christmas Decorations from the shelves. It would take at least two trips to get them all upstairs. The second trip would include two more boxes of memories. Once the decorations were appropriately arranged, far cozier reminiscing by the fireplace with the Admiral––about family and Christmases past––was in order.

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