You Found Them Where?

On December 12, 2010, in Stories of Stories, by JRand

When our mother passed away and the family home was empty, my sister and I struggled with what to do with the house. It was loaded with the results and accumulations of two lifetimes, our parents, and of our childhoods. Much of which had not been thrown away.

Nuremburg, Late 1945

Nuremburg 1945

The house sat for too long with us dabbling here and there at a clean-out. Finally the clean-out became a necessity and the project took on a routine of devoting several hours every other day to going through all of the stuff. Dumpsters were filled and storage units were filled but the process dragged on. Friends who saw that I was tiring of the process suggested that I just hire a few people to go in and take care of it all at once. It was tempting but I had a sense that I would miss something important and never know.

One day I decided to tackle the garage. Old ski equipment, snow tires and piles of junk were slowly attended to. My back was killing me and the piles didn’t seem to be getting small enough. I began to regret not following that advice and just have the place “taken care of”.

Then I started to pull apart a pile of junk along a side wall. It really was a pile of junk and one thing after another went into the dumpster until the last box at the very bottom … somewhat damp and smelling of mildew. It was filled with letters, and some pictures, written from our father to our mother from towns and cities in France and Germany as the 4th Infantry Division pushed forward from Utah Beach on D-Day in 1944.

Somewhere in France 1945

Somewhere in France 1945

This was the moment I had been concerned about. Nobody else would likely have bothered to inspect that stinky box at the bottom of a pile of other stinky boxes that contained nothing of value. I almost didn’t look at it carefully myself and this was one place I would never have expected to find a family treasure. Our garage was never used to store boxes of papers of any kind. How that ended up there is a total mystery. It was sitting there awaiting discovery, deterioration or the dumpster for many years.

Other posts will describe strategies for dealing with sudden and impressive discoveries such as this but of course I had to read a few letters. The first one contained an emphatic request to stop sending him cigarettes! Not that he didn’t smoke at the time but because it was one commodity that the military provided in more than sufficient quantities. He wanted harder-to-get things to be sent instead … like warm gloves and film for his camera.

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