When the workmen tore down the ceiling in my father’s home, a small cascade, composed of a Sports Illustrated magazine, a mouse-nibbled Wall Street Journal, and two envelopes, rained down upon them. They had found one of my father’s time capsules.
Last year, I had accompanied my father to his cousin’s funeral in New Jersey. There he met the woman who now lives in the house where my father grew up.
“Did you find any of the time capsules?” he had asked her. He recalled each place he and his father had put notes and treasures for someone to discover under floorboards and inside walls. Unfortunately, she didn’t recall having found any of them.
But we did.
My first inclination was to simply place the time capsule in the ceiling of the new room, but Mary looked at it and asked, “Can we open it?”
The date on both envelopes was 1984. They had been placed there before any of my children had been born. Of course, it made sense for the next generation to see what had been placed there for them.
We stared at the envelopes for a good week before opening them. In the meantime, I leafed through the Sports Illustrated.
I doubt many people today will know the name Debbie Armstrong. How quickly we forget the sweethearts of Olympics past. I better remember Kitty and Peter Carruthers, the brother-sister team from Massachusetts who won silver in figure skating pairs, and whose story also appeared in the magazine.
But, oh, the Sarajevo Olympics. The whole venue today is as crumbled as Yugoslavia. I found pictures on a site marking the 30th anniversary of those games. You can view them here: Dailymail.co.uk: Is this the fate that awaits Socchi? So sad.
The Wall Street Journal proved much more fragile to read through. The only article that interested me on the front page was about AIDS. In 1984 we were still in the early days of panic. Mice, however, found this to be a tasty story and large chunks are missing.
We finally opened the envelopes.
One contained a family picture which happened to be the family photo from my wedding. My parents had used it as their Christmas card in 1982.
The other envelope contained a hand-written letter from my father.
16 March 1984
Who knows when (or if) this note will be found? After living here for almost 17 years we have finally gotten around to lowering the ceiling in this room and in the process converting an old pull-cord light to a wall switch.
My youngest son Jim and Bob Montione, a SUCO graduate student, have helped with the heavy work — lots of grunting and straining, a few expletives, some misdriven nails and we are almost done.
Why do we leave these mementos. My own father got me started on this 50 years ago when we left a message beneath the attic floorboards at our first home in Brookside, NJ.
We love this house, having moved into it when we left the US Army in 1967. Five children have grown up here — the eldest Stewart — 29 yrs old — now a Presbyterian minister in Jamesville, NY. Donabeth – 27 yrs – our oldest daughter, works in Wichita, Kansas. Peter (25) works in Oneonta and Cooperstown, Sally – 24 – is married and living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Jim age 20 attends Clark University in Worcester, Mass — A great family. My wife Elinor works part-time for the Red Cross as a Blood Bank nurse, and I devote my time to Mary Imogene Bassett Hosp as chief of Div of Community Medicine, Assoc. Director for Emergency Services.
The rest is history.
The note is signed by my father.
I made copies of it before I stuck the original back in a new time capsule.
The workers were getting ready to close up the new ceiling so I printed pictures of our family from Sam and Donna’s wedding, with a who’s who key written at the bottom. I printed a picture of Henry, the next generation.
Then I, too, wrote a note about the project being done and about family. Our family.
Bitter because I had to mention Stewart’s death and my mother’s dementia. Sweet because of Henry.
I stuffed my note, photographs, my father’s notes, a grocery store flyer, and a few other odds and ends into a Ritz Cracker tin.
The mice may want the Ritz crackers, but I doubt they can nibble through the tin.
The workers laughed when they saw it.
“I’ll bet whoever finds that will be disappointed there aren’t any crackers in it,” he said.
History is better than Ritz.