Monday, April 27, 2009

Trunk Keeper

I am the keeper of the old family trunk. My Grandfather born in Switzerland, and saw the wonders of this country in 1884 when, at age 19, he arrived in New York on a Swiss government business errand. On this visit he met and formed an acquaintance with Teddy Roosevelt, then a police commissioner in New York City. It was due to this acquaintance that, after several trips to the US, he decided to immigrate. On the last trip in 1895, he brought my Grandmother with him and they married in New York the day after arrival. After living on the California coast for a few years, they moved to Arizona, living in Mesa and Tempe before moving to west Maricopa County. In 1919 the family homesteaded on 160 acres of desert land. In just a few years, the desert wasteland blossomed and bloomed into an oasis and showplace.

The farm lane leading to the house was lined with almond trees, acres of wine grapes, fields of alfalfa for the Holstein dairy cows, an acre of citrus, black walnut and pecan trees, fig, pomegranate and date palms all surrounded the home. A screened porch wrapped around three sides of the home, and the on the last side, was a root cellar entrance. Canned vegetables, jams and the homemade wines from the grape harvest lined the cellar shelves, along with anything that needed to be kept out of the hot, dry heat. That included all the grand kids who loved to go into the dark, cool, scary place on the hottest of days. That musty smell of damp vegetation in the cellar, the distinct odor of cottonwood tree fungus, carnations, fig leaves and citrus blossoms are just a few odors that evoke so many childhood memories.

A vegetable and flower garden grew in the front yard, and another next to the dairy barn. They raised chickens, turkeys and calves, and after mowing season, they rented their fields for sheep to graze for a few weeks. I was born in a small house on the farm and lived there until my dad bought a dairy farm a few miles away.

Over the years, this old trunk and most of its contents survived the dry hot desert climate with only minimal damage. As children we looked forward to going though the old trunk, and I'm certain we destroyed a few things.

This old button bag that my aunt made as a child in the early 1920s held all the family's new and used buttons.

My grandparents had three healthy sons born at the very beginning of the twentieth century, then set of twin girls--deceased very young, another daughter who died in infancy in 1909 and then, another daughter in 1913 and a set of triplet boys in 1916. The triplet story later....

The trunk was filled with old books, pictures mostly unnamed, scarves, dollies, monogrammed hankies, dish towels, letters, postcards, and calling cards in beautiful cases.

A still intact Edelweiss, the national flower of Switzerland, was pressed and has been in the trunk for over 100 years! Remember the song from The Sound of Music?

Now and then, I rummage through the old trunk, and in those moments, I am home, a child once again!


Julie said...

What a wonderous trunk! That was a great story about your grandparents and their life. It is so nice that you have so much memorabilia in grandmas trunk was divided up and someone got just an empty trunk. Your way is much nicer! Lucky you!!!!

Claude said...

what a wonderful box of memories... So many people I talk to have no ties to their past anymore.

Aiyana said...

Do you share these items with all the grandchildren?

Pudgeduck said...

Everything has been left in the trunk. I want to leave it as is...Not sure who will get it next..I have a few peices of furniture,a closet full of books-some dating 1730-Lots of stuff!