My father’s father died four years before I was born. Dad reacted by hoisting a massive trunk containing the man’s every worldly possession into the backyard trash barrel and setting it on fire. Mom, who had talked him out of destroying family heirlooms on other occasions, arrived at the pyre too late to protest. She could only stand near the blaze, chastising my father ineffectually, watching relics succumb to engulfing flames.
“The antique trunk alone was worth a fortune,” Mom said. She recalls its contents: Dad’s baby dress, a shift of cotton lawn. A yellowed blanket. A gold ring set with a turquoise stone the size of a grain of rice.
Photos of his parents and grandparents. There was even one of Evelyn, the sister who had died of some unnamed disease at the age of six, leaving behind a corpse the size of a doll’s.
“Why’d he do it?” I asked.
“Because if it’s gone, he doesn’t have to think about it.”
My grandfather, according to family legend, was a layabout. He’d had a stroke in front of the television at the boarding house where he stayed, bottle of bourbon in hand. For half a day the other residents assumed he’d passed out.
I get my dad’s distaste for nostalgia.
There was that Christmas that was perfect. My cousins and I spun wooden tops on hardwood floors as the fireplace raged and cookies baked in the oven. It would forever hover there, a reminder of what Christmas would never be again. More often Mom and Dad, bound for grandma’s, would turn the car around after some knock-down, drag-out argument.
What will trigger tears is unpredictable now. I toss our wedding scrapbook into a pile in the garage but feel a pang when I throw away your moth-ridden Yoda shirt.
Shannon Thrace is an IT professional, a grad student pursuing a master’s in English, and a devotee of farm-to-table restaurants, summer festivals, all-night conversations and formidable philosophy texts. She is passionate about unplugging, getting outside and seeing the world.