Chapter Six – Through the Glasses
With surprising urgency, she found herself taking two stairs at a time toward the landing above the living room. At the top, she stretched to pull the red-handled rope, and the attic stairs unfolded. Roof beams kept the world at bay while Grandma’s trunk and its contents lingered like a world traveler waiting for repatriation.
Kneeling on the attic floor, Morgan’s fingertips traced the Celtic knots and spirals tooled in the trunk’s leather exterior. Vague memories of innocence and awe glistened like hazy liquid crystal. When she lifted the heavy lid, ancient memories rose into the rafters like dust particles reflecting a sunbeam. The quiet scent of earth and wildflowers filled the dimly lit space.
Blue light through the round gable window illuminated the inside where a drawing of a young woman in a heavy floor-length gown told the story of women’s fashions when Áine Mary Morgan boarded the ship to America in 1848. Why did I wait so long to explore this? she thought, unaware that it had taken years of silent preparation.
Only now could she begin to understand the secrets concealed inside, as if opening a portal to memories from another life.
Morgan touched a tattered quilt and remembered her grandmother saying, My mother and her friends hand-stitched each patch and gave it to Cecil and me for a wedding gift. Great-Grandma Mary Anna cut rectangles from scratchy work shirts and cumbersome dresses that had come to the end of their usefulness, then lovingly hand-stitched each to the next in a brickwork pattern that reminded Morgan of piano keys.
Each patch of fabric told its own story: the red plaid wool worn by Great-Granddad as he hitched his team of horses to plow Ohio cornfields; the mauve velvet dress worn by Great-Grandma as she played the piano before the birth of her first child, Edith Mary; the white-on-white cotton christening gown worn by baby Edith and each of the eleven siblings who followed.
Morgan touched her heart and felt the contrast between the buttery softness of her polar fleece shirt and the quilt’s scratchy wool patches. As she moved the quilt aside, she noticed letters embroidered on a blue dungaree rectangle.
With both hands, she gently placed the quilt on the floor next to her, wondering who Cuimhnigh might have been.
An Art Deco eyeglass case waited among the photos. The sage-green leather case squeaked softly, liberating a pair of round-rimmed spectacles. Thickly packed light suddenly filled the room. Morgan’s heart raced beneath her pale yellow shirt. I must have had too much coffee this morning, she thought.
She pulled herself to her feet and walked to the small round window, the glasses gently balanced in her palm. Dark clouds filled the sky and rain pounded the driveway far below the attic. Lars, the male llama, stood watching the storm from the safety of the barn, the female llamas kushed on the floor in the shadows behind him.
Trying to ignore the faint, mysterious light in the room, she placed the glasses on the quilt and continued to explore. Loose inside a leather album she found a familiar sepia image. Grandma Edith, stood with her husband, Cecil; her mother Mary Anna; and all eleven brothers and sisters. Mary Anna held Anne, Cecil and Edith’s first-born child, who appeared to be about six months old. This must have been taken in the summer of 1924. My mother was Mary Anna’s first grandchild. Morgan thought. Edith wore glasses like the ones Morgan found in the trunk.
As naturally as taking her contemporary reading glasses from her purse, Morgan removed the antiquated pair from their case. After gently cleaning the lenses with her shirttail, she positioned the metal stems behind her ears, then shivered as if cold electrical current penetrated her skin.