In the attic sets Grandma’s trunk gathering dust and time worn. Inside of it are stored treasures and precious memories from the past.
Many years ago, it traveled across the ocean with my Grandmother Mary, her brother and her parents, my great-grandparents. They left England in 1874 and were met in Jackson, Michigan, by Great-Grandfather’s brother John. They remained there for a while and then the trunk was packed with their belongings to make the journey to Iowa.
The story goes upon arrival in Iowa, Great-Granddad had but one thin dime in his pocket. He headed to the tavern for a beer.
In later years, the trunk stood at the top of Grandma’s stairs. Later it was passed to the next generation and on to the next.
Opening the creaking lid and peering inside produces a burst of memories. There is the christening gown, yellowed by age, that Grandma’s mother made for her. The family Bible, well read and containing dates of births and deaths. A gold watch with a long gold chain, which was a special gift from Granddad. He bought it after selling his cattle in Chicago. The “End of the Trail” picture that graced her living room wall, that I thought a bit spooky. A Currier and Ives, a Christmas and anniversary gift, as my grandparents married on Christmas day. Some pieces of Limoges China, a gift from my mother when she landed her first job in Omaha. Digging deeper are pictures of her entire family of 12. There are pictures of her children, all 18 of the grandchildren and even some of the greats. Amid the memories, I find vintage toys and a small suitcase that belonged to a grandson, who disappeared at a young age. He was not located until after Grandma’s death. (That is a whole other story.) The last piece is a pretty pale green depression ware goblet. I can vision it setting in her China cabinet with the others. Each item brings back a cherished memory. If the trunk could talk, it could tell so much of travel and the life of my ancestors.
Now it was time to close the lid. I am grateful my family and the trunk made it to America. They came, worked hard, saved money and purchased land. Great-Granddad left each of his 10 children a farm. The family really did fulfill the American dream for a better life for them and the next generations.
The holidays have come and gone. Presents have been opened and cherished, traditional foods laden with many calories have been consumed with a smile and not caring what the end result would be.
Now it is January. Magazines, TV ads, have advertisements of special diets, exercise equipment. It seems like they can be seen everywhere you go. These ads are all designed to draw attention to your body and what you see.
Looking in the mirror, I realized that Santa had left me more than just great presents. He also left me some “love handles.” If that wasn’t bad enough, Santa also left me part of his big belly! Stepping on the scales to check my weight, I heard the scales let out a big groan. I thought, “Oh no, not me.” I weighted myself again. Another groan. Back to the mirror to survey the extra presents that Santa left me. I had to do something.
Going to the mall I went to the intimate apparel department. Gathering a variety of brand names of apparel designed to flatten your tummy and love handles. With at least six items of various sizes and brand names, from small to large hung from my hands and arms, I went into the dressing cubicle.
The small one I tried, I couldn’t get it past my knees. Then I reached for the medium size. After much tugging and pulling, I was able to get the garment to my hips and struggled to get it off. Then I looked at the large size. Sucking in everything I could, I started to try it on. With much effort, I was able to get it a little past my hips but was afraid that if it went any further, I would not be able to get it off and I would be trapped in a piece of elastic. As I struggled to get it off, I looked out of the dressing room. I saw no one to assist me if I got stuck in this “special garment.” The fittings did not go well. Out of choices, I put the items back on the rack.
With another sigh, I went to another store thinking that I might have better results. Unfortunately, the same thing happened. By then I realized that I was stuck with the inevitable. I was going to look like “Ole Saint Nick” the rest of the year.
Sighing again, I wondered how women got into those garments. There were a lot of them on display. ladies must buy them. Somehow, they must have a secret that I did not know about. With a groan, I thought, I needed to get to the fitness gym and try to lose that added weight. I bet Santa is “HO, HO, HO-ing” about the “special gift” he gave me this year. I could have done without that gift. On the bright side, I get to buy new clothes for this new year!
Every October we travel near Albuquerque, New Mexico, on our trip to Phoenix. We are in awe to see the beautiful unique multicolor balloons in the sky. Sometimes we are able to see them race. The Albuquerque Balloon Festival is an annual event since 1972.
Growing up I loved balloons, except when they burst when I was blowing them up! We played Water Balloon Toss and tried to get the other person to burst the balloon on their side! At birthday parties it was a treat to receive a balloon.
I love to see the face of a child when someone ties a string on the wrist, and gives the child one of these colorful items. The heartbreak if that balloon bursts, is shared by all! There is a saying, “Who burst your balloon?” when someone is very depressed.
Several years ago, our daughter-in-law said, “I don’t want flowers for my wedding reception. I want balloons.” It really was festive, especially on the dance floor. They are used at anniversary celebrations also.
Sometimes balloons are used in the medical field. The heart, bladder and possibly other organ medical needs use balloons.
They can also be used at a Celebration of Life funeral as they are released in the air.
The Goodyear Blimp is a balloon. It hoovers over ballgames and announces plays on the field.
Children’s books are enjoyed like The Red Balloon that a child follows.
Today there are many colors and fabrics of balloons. Most are used for happy occasions. Seeing a blown-up balloon up in the sky one allows their thoughts to wander. They show new beginnings, promises, it is a festive atmosphere and shows a sense of promise. These magical balloons also let us reflect on our childhood.
The Travel Bug
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I think I can trace it back to my Uncle Max. His visits were always special and fun-filled. As a child I looked forward to the visits and the stories. He was a Navy pilot, flying off aircraft carriers who’d been to many foreign ports of call. I recall one of his stories of buying silk dresses for my Auntie Carolyn in Shanghai. It was also Uncle Max who told me based on his views of the world that French was the “international language,” the language of diplomats.
So, thanks in large part to my Uncle Max, I have the travel bug. Growing up I told my parents I was going to travel. They placated me by saying, of course, but at the same time not really believing it and sort of discouraging me. I studied French in high school and wanted to go to college in France; the University of Grenoble or perhaps the Sorbonne. That was not in the budget, so I became a commuter kid and attended local colleges. There I studied French as well; however, with no place to speak French in Southern California that was pretty much the end. Or so I thought.
My first international trip, many years ago was to China. Since my parents had, in my mind, denied me the travel I desired, I decided not to tell them in advance of my trip. I quietly got my first passport and headed to China. I sent them a postcard. It was marvelous. Hong Kong, Kowloon, Macau … gun boats in the South China Sea. Sights and smells and tastes I will never forget.
Since that first trip so long ago, I have traveled to 22 countries so far. People always ask, “Which was your favorite trip?” I never know the answer. Was it the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower? Or was it climbing up on the Great Wall of China? Or maybe it was seeing the Matterhorn on a crisp morning in Switzerland. Snorkeling in Jamaica? A gondola ride in Venice? But maybe best of all was the safari in Africa. And, as I think of the places I’ve been and all the things I’ve done, I still can’t decide.
Maybe the best trip of all will be the next trip.