What did my grandmother think when she met the man she would marry in 1916? Did she know right away he was “the one,” or did she already have a steady beau?
It’s hard to believe she didn’t have a flock of young men hovering around her, but anything is possible. Short of finding a diary lost for nearly 100 years, I’ll never know. The chances are improbable, and if it truly reflected my grandmother’s reticent personality, it wouldn’t help. The words would record the surface events of life, not deep personal thoughts.
What I do have, though, is an old pasteboard jewelry box. For decades, it’s been the repository of postcards, snapshots, newspaper clippings (mostly family obituaries for people I’ve heard of but never met), Sunday school presentation cards and the like.
Among these fragments are a handful of beautiful, embossed postcards. They are designed to look and feel like embroidery. The colors, though faded, still hint at how richly vivid they must have been when new. I try not to touch them, but the surfaces are tempting. The flowers feel like velveteen.
A couple are valentines sent to my grandmother by aunts and girlfriends. Three or four are birthday cards. Although all are addressed, none is stamped or postmarked, so there’s no way to tell when they were received.
One birthday postcard is from my grandfather: “From your friend Bill.” Another is signed with a different gentleman’s initial. “D.B.” Because they are similar in look and condition, why not assume they are from the same year?
Who was D.B.?
Imagination and my own heart say these cards survived because they were special. If they were special, they signify some emotional attachment. The novelist in me sees so many possibilities.
D.B. was her childhood sweetheart and he died young. Disease or accident? Or a casualty of trench warfare in France? Heck, why not go whole hog and say he joined the Lafayette Escadrille and was shot down? In any of these scenarios, my grandmother thought she’d never love again until Bill came into her life.
Or D.B. was wild and broke my grandmother’s heart by a.) “having” to marry another woman; or b.) refusing to give up the bottle. Or D.B. adored her, but she loved him like a brother and broke his heart by telling him they could only ever be friends.
Or did she repeat her mother’s story?
Family lore says my great-grandmother was engaged to a fine city man, the son of a mill superintendent, and jilted him when she met my great-grandfather, the carpenter, when he was hired to do some work on their house. Now that sounds like a love story.
I know how Bill’s story turned out – 61 years of marriage. But I don’t have much more than a date and a few facts that are just as bewildering. I’ll get to those next time.
Do you know your grandparents’ love story, or have you had to imagine one for them? I’d be thrilled if you cared to share it in a comment.