Today was Valentines Day and I had a Valentine party to attend later this night. My problem? I had waited until today to actually read the invitation and I found out that it was a theme party, but not just any theme. It was a 1920’s themed party. My solution? Raid my great grandmother’s attic! My great grandmother, for lack of a better term, was a hoarder. G.G. (Great Grandma Emily) couldn’t throw out last year’s magazine let alone almost one-hundred-year-old clothes that belonged to her mother. Sad to say that the hoarder gene was liberally handed down to son, daughter, and grandchild alike along with the costly clothes horse gene. They made such a lovely couple.
Some of my fondest memories were of playing dress-up in G.G.’s attic when we visited with her. There were probably twenty or more big trunks stuffed to the lid stacked or lying around the attic, consisting of trunks for Great Grandma Emily (the real clothes horse), Grandpa Pete, a general in the last Great War (uniforms galore), various aunts, uncles, cousins, sons, daughters and beginning to show up with trunks, the grandchildren. It was really a shame that not one of us could bear to throw clothes away. Instead, we would load up a trunk, drag it over to G.G.’s house and lug it up the three flights of stairs to rest for all eternity in the confines of the attic. Occasionally, someone (like me) would creep into the attic to revive the memories of years gone by.
So here I was, poking around in the recesses of the attic looking for a particular truck that held the Roaring 20’s clothes from Great Aunt Helen’s contribution to the cause. I remembered seeing a beautiful, black, spangled, dress with a fringe hem in her trunk last time I was poking around in the attic. It was possibly in the back under the rafters, I thought.
The attic was swept, mopped and dusted every three months by the staff who lived to serve my Great Grandma and keep her whole house spotless. Although G.G. was now in a wheelchair, it was surprising how well she flew around her home. She had had an elevator installed that went to all three floors so she could be anywhere she wanted to be anytime. As much as I admired and loved G.G. I was intrigued by my Great Aunt Helen. She was what I always dreamed of being. She was a lovely woman, assured, self-sufficient, successful and very independent. She had never married. According to her, she didn’t need a man to make her whole. She had a dog that barked, a stove that smoked and a blanket to keep her warm she would say. As I said, I admired her greatly.
There it was! By the chimney, against the West wall, I found it. Kneeling in front of the chest, I ran my hands over the smooth leather. It had been a beautiful red color that faded to a gentle rose. The trunk was embossed with her initials inside a fleur de lis. It was one of my favorite trunks to look at in the attic. Opening the trunk released a weakened lilac fragrance into the air that I still associated with my great aunt. I gently moved the drawer out of the trunk and set it to the side on the floor by me. The jewelry that rested in the drawer drew my attention. I picked up the amethyst and diamond drop pendant necklace with earrings and a matching bracelet. These would go fabulously with the dress I wanted to wear. Pulling aside the first layer of tissue paper I found a beautiful red evening gown with a lace top. The gown was gorgeous but not what I wanted; I carefully wrapped it back into the tissue paper and set the gown aside. Reaching down into the middle of the trunk I saw the dress I wanted. Gently I drew the dress out from the trunk. Lifting it out of the tissue paper I saw a card fall onto the floor. Quickly I picked the card up to replace it back in the trunk and in so doing the card flipped over. I found myself starting at a beautiful, old fashioned card. I carefully opened the card up and read:
My feelings for you will never change. I was so looking forward to our marriage, but now it cannot be.
With the passing of my father, the title and all the entailing of the estate falls on me. I find myself obligated to fulfill my father’s dying wish. I feel compelled to follow through with the marriage that had been arranged for me since I was a child. I thought I could escape my destiny but I cannot. The two families, I find, are legally entwined and I must endeavor to make a go of this marriage.
I wish you joy, happiness, and I pray you will find love again.
I rocked back on my heels and pondered this brief but sad note to my great aunt. I tried recalling anything I had heard about “G”, but to no avail. I knew there were diaries my great aunt had kept. I decided I would see what I could find out.
This should be an interesting search.