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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: Love Remembered
By Yvonne Blake


“Mama, we’ve got to look through the boxes in the attic. The movers are coming soon. We need to decide what things will go in my attic. You won’t need much in the nursing facility. There are so many things up there that I don’t know what they are and pictures of people I don’t know who they are!”

Eleanor picked up one picture at a time, squinting at the black and white faces. “Who are you, man and woman? I know your faces. Who are you?”

“Mama, this quilted blanket is stained and torn. Can we throw it away?”

Eleanor’s twisted fingers caressed the blue gingham square. "I wore this to the church picnic when I met him."

“Him? Who, Mama? Dad?”

Eleanor looked up at Sharon with milky blue eyes, as if she forgot she was there. “He said I was beautiful in the blue dress.” She touched another light blue flannel square. “My baby boy…”

“Baby boy? Mama, what boy? It’s just Shelley and me, Sharon.”

Eleanor held the quilt to her cheeks and a trickle dampened it.

“We can’t throw it away, I guess. What about this rock? I’m sure that’s just trash.”

Eleanor smiled and clutched the smooth stone. She shifted it from one hand to the other and put its coolness against her skin. “He took me to the ocean….waves… wind…”

“Who? Dad?”

There were baby shoes, photos with scribbled names and dates on the back, knitted sweaters, and embroidered doilies. Each brought a smile or tear to Eleanor’s face, and Sharon couldn’t throw anything away. She put them back in the boxes with a sigh.

Of course, she remembered some of the treasures herself. There was the macaroni covered jewelry box, made with popsicle sticks at summer camp, Christmas tree ornaments of felt and glitter, and the necklace of chunky, gaudy beads that she made in first grade for a birthday present. Was that the stuffed poodle that Sammy Doolan gave her when she was twelve? She thought she threw that away…and her old diary?

Mom wanted me to remember. Maybe I should have stayed friends with Sammy. Maybe I wouldn’t be so lonely now, if I hadn’t turned away from him. I wonder if he’s still around.

Some things just fell apart, like a yellowed newspaper, dried flowers, and a plaster picture frame. A few glass figurines lacked arms and tails. Those went in the trash bag. A box of clothes smelled musty and scattered seeds when Sharon shook them. She shuddered with the thought that she might find a nest of baby squirrels or mice.

She grunted as she pulled a wooden trunk from the cobwebby corner and swiped a layer of dust from its lid. She coughed and then sneezed. With a click and snap, the lock popped open, and she lifted the top.

An American flag, folded into a triangle, lay on top. Sharon handed it to her mother and dug deeper into the box, through papers, clothes, books, and tools.

Eleanor touched the stars. “I pledge allegiance…”

“Mama, is all this Dad’s stuff?” She pulled out a fishing hat with feathery flies stuck on its band. There was a flat blue box with a gold eagle embossed on its cover. Striped ribbons and brass medals lay on a dark blue cushion. Sharon closed it and replaced it. She took out s bundle of envelopes, tied with a string.

Eleanor stared far away, in years long ago.

Sharon untied the letters. Blue and red postmarks hailed from Italy, France, Germany, and England. The once white envelopes were now stained and torn. One square envelope was bigger than the others. She slowly pulled it out. The front showed a sleigh with a couple sitting close, oblivious to the wintery night sky because they were gazing at each other.

Inside it said,


Love, Paul
P.S. I’ll be home soon, for Christmas.”

Eleanor looked at Sharon. “Paul? I miss you. When are you coming home?”

“Oh Mama, Dad never made it home for Christmas. I miss him, too.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 11/13/08
Lovely entry. It gave me goosebumps. So many memories are stored in the older generations minds. My favorite part was when she started to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Very nice:)
Joanne Sher 11/15/08
Such a lovely, sentimental piece.

I didn't find the first paragraph to be very "hooky." I might have started with them already in the attic looking through things, and perhaps woven the reason into the story elsewhere. That might have grabbed me more readily.

Very nice job of characterization for both characters.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/16/08
This is a very sweet story. I found the first paragraph hard to believe. A project like that would be huge, taking a long time and needing to be started long before the movers were coming. Once they started going through the things, it was very believable and touching.
Catrina Bradley 11/17/08
What a sweet story! The first paragraph is a little awkward; it may have been better to skip it all together and just show them going through the boxes, working the reason into the conversation. The memories and descriptions were fantastic. (And I still want to know who is the "baby boy".) Great job!
Celeste Ammirata11/18/08
So sad her Paul never made it home. This is a very well written, heart touching piece. Great job!
Helen Dowd11/20/08
Very sad when a loved-one loses recall of the past events, but in this case, memories are brought back by objects, objects that mean nothing to (in this case, the daughter) but everything to the elderly. Touch and smell especially are good things to bring back to the mind an event that meant a lot at one time...This is a sad story. I agree with some of the other commenters that the story could have begun at the second paragraph, working in the reason for going through the attic things during the rest of the story...Nevertheless, a good story, leaving a feeling of sadness for days gone by...Helen
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/20/08
Your items in the attic tie the memories of your story together beautifully, the last the saddest of all. Well done.