After she died, we went through my grandmother’s house for the last time before it was sold. There were a few things no one wanted… household items, pieces of cheap furniture, miscellaneous junk of no value, but the small box with a faded peony painted on the top caught my eye. It was filled with things only a grandmother would save… A thimble, pins, an earpiece for her transitor radio, a small porcelain angel with a broken wing, buttons, hearing aid batteries, and other odd items of little value.
At the bottom of the box was a plastic sleeve encasing a yellowed, torn death notice from a newspaper. As I held it in my hands, I read the names: William, Henrietta, Grace, May (my grandmother), and Winifred, all familiar names I had heard throughout my childhood, but I never knew the relationships.
We knew very little about my grandmother’s past. We were told she had grown up as an orphan in Detroit, Michigan. Her father, after arriving from Ireland, had given the children up because of poverty. The only fact offered about her mother were the words, “She died”.
Standing in my grandmother’s room for the last time, I instinctively knew this tiny scrap of paper was an important keepsake although its significance was unknown. Later I would learn I held in my hand the threads to weave the story of her past.