As I was sorting through some boxes, I came across some of my grandmother’s handkerchiefs and a silk scarf of my mother’s. Ma never wore scarves tied in the artful ways we do these days, or as a shawl. She used them underneath her coat, near her collar; a buffer against the cold. In the box was a faded linen towel from France, brought home from the first World War by her father. There were some pressed flowers, and a prayer book of Ma’s uncle. The things that one finds inside a box or drawer; forgotten treasures of long ago past. It was not so much these things I uncovered, however, but the feel and scent of family that rose to meet me when I opened the box.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever felt your family, or a friend, come to meet you, tucked inside a box, in a cupboard or a pantry, a basement or an attic?
I put the box back on the shelf and remembered a poem that Nan shared some time ago on her blog, Letters from a Hill Farm. The poem, The Cupboard, by Arthur Rimbaud, touched me then, and it touches me now. I hope it does the same for you.
It’s a board carved wooden cupboard;
the ancient dark-coloured oak
has taken on that pleasant air
that old people have; the cupboard is open,
and gives off from its kindly shadows
inviting aromas like a breath of old wine;
full to overflowing, it’s a jumble of quaint old things:
fragrant yellowed linen,
rags of women’s or children’s clothes, faded laces,
grandmothers’ kerchiefs embroidered with griffins;
– here you could find lockets,
and locks of white or blonde hair,
portraits and dried flowers
whose smell mingles with the smell of fruit. –
O cupboard of old times, you know plenty of stories;
and you’d like to tell them;
and you clear your throat every time
your great dark doors slowly open.