In my mothers bedroom is an item so ordinary yet precious and is as familiar as anything I know or have known. I’ve seen it my entire life. It’s my great grandmothers black trunk. In her time, she was the keeper of our history, our stories, the relics of life, passed now into my mothers hands and one day, entrusted into my own.
Her trunk sat at the foot of her own bed thoughout my childhood and at 18, I rented her old room from my great aunt and there it sat still. Within it, is kept our family history, letters, diaries, books, pocket watches, documents, photographs and.my great great grandfathers surgical tools, still wrapped in a canvas roll.
His legend lived in stories heard throughtout my childhood and although I never met him, I felt such familiar warmth and love. What a precious gift to give our loved ones, life that spans beyond their own….their presence, being and story to the generations to come.
In his time, he made house calls, traveling from house to house and town to town by horse and buggy. One of my mothers cousins still has the blanket he used for warmth on the buggy. Within the old chest, resides his ledger which logs his patients, treatment and payment for service, usually made with eggs, a chicken and various other goods.
A dapper fellow who always wore a black suit, liked to drink and loved the ladies. Married 5 times, I’d say they loved him too. Thing were much different back then and they too dealt with epidemics, lessor lifespans and lower mortality in child birth. He was widowed each time with many children.
He was a staunch Republican. In one altercation over politics, it was reported his stomach was cut with a knife and he sewed himself up until he could get medical attention.
A granddaughter wrote of him, “I remember him as a kind, lovable white curly haired
gentleman, dressed in a black suit and black hat. He walked straight and tall. He would always have long sticks of candy in his pockets for us naughty grandchildren. I saw the good part of him and I loved
Too, the old chest contains one of his beloved books, a book of physicians poetry.
The trunk contains the pocket watch of his son, my great grandfather, the handwritten letters of my great and great great grandmothers and their diaries.
Great Grandfather, Samuel with his father Dr Isaac White.
Someday the old black trunk will rest at the foot of my own bed and I will add to it’s treasure for the newest of our generations. I’ll place within it all the treasures I hold as well: my great grandmothers oil lamp, my grandmothers diary, the little green pitcher that sat on her window sill, her engagement ring, the crocheted rose blanket, doily fine that my other great grandmother made for me at my birth, my mothers birth announcement, and my baby clothes.
I will tell their stories to my grandchildren as those before had done for me, speaking life into their names and tending the ancient roots of family.