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Grandma’s old stuff is always fun to go through, the idea of holding history in your hands! Grandma is the old lady who lives down the street, we aren’t really related, however, she never had any children so I’m her granddaughter.
I walked over to Grandma’s house an hour before lunch, she likes baking before lunch. Inside was like a whole world compacted into a single house. Artifacts from all over the world sat, carefully placed, on dressers and shelves. Native American, Old French, Chinese, and some other culture I couldn’t place. It always smelled of cookies and banana nut bread, not that ‘old people smell people relate with the smell of strong powders and too much perfume. I walked down the front hall very slowly admiring the pictures, like I had done each time I came over.
“Grandma?” I called out, standing still so I could listen for her silent shuffling feet. My eyes caressed the wall where pictures of Grandma as a woman, maybe in her mid-thirties.
“Emmy?” My voice rang out, ”It’s Chess, where are you?” I shouted as I passed through the house, circling through the kitchen into the living room and onto the little library, that was part of a little sunroom. I hastened my pace as I neared the kitchen for a second time, then stopped and looked around just in case.
And I found it.
I’ve stepped out for another adventure! You can look around the attic
while I’m gone, if you get bored.
See you Soon!
With Love your Emmy
It was written on a torn piece of paper, and curiosity got the best of me so I looked on the back.
A simple date and that’s all that it said.
“The attic!” I exclaimed, feeling more and more ridiculous, “Right.” Emmy usually gave me little history lessons when I came over. The attic was where we had our discussions because it was full of Grandma’s possessions, full but not organized. “9-4-38” I muttered, thinking of what I knew of 1938. I repeated the date out loud, thinking over and over. “Grandma…was in New York around then.” I stated my conclusion, as the attic door clicked open. I crossed the room and opened the window seat Grandma kept her childhood trinkets, toys and journals.
Inside the compartmented seat was a box labeled ‘Storm ‘38’, I opened the box and found it full of pictures, letters, articles from old newspapers, and at the very bottom was a beige journal with the name Emmy embroidered on the top right corner. The weight was more than it would have appeared to be. It’s pages were weather damaged and faded in some areas.
I opened the cover and began to read the words and thoughts of a younger Emmy. Most were records of sunny days and happy times at the beach, or written memories of Emmy’s life in the northern coast. I flipped and read through with a thirst until I reached my lesson for the day.
September 4, 1938.
I stopped. My thirst for the past not quenched but I just couldn’t continue with the fire I had had. Maybe it was the blotches of ink on the page that made me realize that Emmy had been crying when she wrote this entry. But I read on.
Rivers of water now rule the streets, while the tears and distress overcome us all.
The day woke with normality, a typical rainstorm brewed in the dawn to caress the Earth through the day. The fishermen left with unease even though the winds were fierce and powerful but were on their side, and the rains angered and fought with the sea. A hurricane was in our midst. No one dared to brave the roads and those who had woken with unease left in the early morning, leaving streets partially abandoned.
Kristy and I sat on the couch looking out of the windows from a distance. Watching trees dance in the winds, being soaked with rain, shaking in the cold. I held on to Kristy, as if the wind would break in to our home and steal her away from me. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad paced the hallway trying to think of the safest thing to do.
Minutes passed, that felt more like eons, but no change of good came. Instead the roads and alleyways flooded pulling out the abandoned toys of the neighborhood. Nicholas’ bike was pulled down to the roaring bay and David’s new baseball bat floated on the churning waves. About an hour later the water began to spill into the house, creeping like a lion stalking its prey. I pulled Kristy up off the couch and ran upstairs to hide, while Mom and Dad attempted to secure all of the windows and doors.
There was a shutting sound from across the hall where Mom had gone, then a shatter of glass. I told Kristy to stay there and ran to the other room. Dad beat me there, but couldn’t keep what had happened. Mom was gone. The window was smashed to pieces and the old shutters were flapping madly in the wind. Dad ushered me out of the room, but there was no point because I was running across the hall, back to Kristy. I just held onto her, fighting the threatening tears and shaking my head when she asked where our mother was.
There were loud whistles, thuds, and slashes, and as the storm continued the house shook a few times. With each thud Kristy screamed out with fear, and with every time the house shook she cried into my shoulder.
We stayed huddled in the bathroom for hours and the thuds finally stopped as well as the house’s shaking but the rain poured down still and the wind howled. We got thirsty and hungry as the day struggled along, so we drank water from the faucet in the bathroom and ate peppermints we found in Dad’s coat pockets. Later we heard screams from outside, I held onto Kristy, and Dad went across the hall to find out what was happening. Tommy and three year old May where floating down the flooded street on an old sled. Dad had come back to tell me about them being in trouble and then went to go help them. We waited, but Dad didn’t come back and there were no shouts or cries for help.
I told Kristy I was going to go get pillows, however Kristy disagreed and I couldn’t argue with why. Last time someone went off alone they didn’t come back. So we went together, quickly, to our bedroom and grabbed some pillows and blankets and snuck around for some candles and returned to the bathroom. As the day passed Kristy began to fall asleep and I just sat there against the wall holding her.
My vision blurred as the entry came to an end, or at least that’s when I noticed it. I thought I knew a lot about Emmy, and I couldn’t describe how it felt knowing that my entire conception of her was completely off base. She was still the only woman I knew to have traveled all over the world, acted as a nurse in over sea wars and still come home and lived a life of adventure. She is the bravest woman I have ever known and even though she is no young dancer anymore she is still beautiful. The diary doesn’t change who I know her to be only made what I knew of her more astounding.
I looked at the next page; it had the consecutive day but was written in the same pen and splashed with tears and smeared in dirt as the previous entry. So I picked up on that day Emmy had taken the pain inflicting time to write down.
The next day it was sunny, Kristy and I stayed side by side the whole time as we ventured the ruins of our house. It was a mess, I went to the stairs, Kristy holding my side, and looked at the flooded downstairs. Thankfully the water only went passed the first step. I piggybacked my little sister to the kitchen and found some apples that had survived and avoided the polluted water. We ate while sitting on the counter tops, in silence. When Kristy was full we went back upstairs and changed into clean clothes and drier shoes.
The house was quiet but a little after lunch Kristy heard shouts outside.
I stopped reading, again, and looked at the pictures that were bundled together with ancient rubber bands. The first picture was taken from, what I guessed was, an attic showing the destruction of a neighborhood; a rocking chair floated close to the edge of the picture. Then a house, flooded with polluted muddy water. The pictures all seemed the same, until the last one. A girl sat wrapped in a towel with a pained grim look on her face. Her hair was soaked but you could still see the curls her hair had, her cheeks had patches of mud caked to her skin and you could see the paths tears had eroded into the dried dirt. But what caught my eye was the little doll she held in her stiff hands. It was small, a perfect little girl with red curls and a cherry smile holding an even smaller teddy bear.
I looked back in the window seat, a funny feeling tickling my memory. There, at the bottom, was the doll from the picture. Gingerly I picked up the tender doll with both hands, careful not to damage it in anyway. Its dusty skin had patches of mud on the bottom of the dolls skirt. I briskly dusted the excess layer of ‘skin’ off the doll and watched it crumble into a fine sediment as it fell to the floor.
Setting the doll down I looked back into the hidden chest. Newspapers and picture frames still littered the floor. I picked up the top paper reading the headlines YOUNG GIRL ORPHANED and below the bold print was a picture of the little girl the same girl in the other picture, holding the doll. Only she was with people, a woman dressed in a flowing dress and caring smile, a man in shorts and a loose button up shirt, and another little girl in a polka dot dress. The orphaned girl was wearing a solid colored dress and a hat; she was smiling and hugging the younger girl.
I picked the journal up once more, turned the page to the next entry, not bothering to finish the one I started, and began to read what happened next.
-The doll fell out of the boat and Kristy cried out, yelling “save my dolly”, but before waiting she dived into the river, like we do when we go to the pool. But the river was only three feet deep at best. I yelled for Kristy not to jump but I was too late and she was determined to save the last things our parents had given her. Kristy hit her head, receiving a concussion. I rushed over to her and got her into the boat, and ducked under the water for the doll. I gave Kristy the doll and noticed her breathing was weird, so I pulled the boat as fast as I could trying to find someone, anyone so Kristy could get help. When I managed to get the little raft to the end of the street Kristy wasn’t breathing. She died before I managed to find anyone to help us.
I felt so connected to Emmy, through her story, I couldn’t keep reading. Emmy had lost her entire family in one storm. Her mother lost through a window, her Father taken during a good deed and her sister under her watch. She felt responsible for her sister’s death.
I heard a jingle of keys, downstairs.
“Chess?” an old voice called from the kitchen. Grandma. I sat the journal down and took the doll from my lap and sat it down nest to the journal; while I rushed down to see Grandma, as if the storm had been yesterday.
“Yes? I’m here.” I said, noticing she had grocery bags I grabbed a few from her little wagon she was using. “How was your day?”
“Beautiful. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and we are all in good health,” she said with a smile.
I couldn’t help but smile back. Grandma Emmy had gone through so much and she looked at the brighter side of everything.
Later I looked up more information about the hurricane of 1938. Emmy had survived a hard storm. When Emmy and I talked about what happened she confessed that she felt responsible for the death of her little sister and for not staying with her mother and calling out for her father to stay closer to her like she wanted to do. But that she also lived as much as she could. Not just for her, but for her little sister and her deceased parents. Grandma was meteorologist for 20 years and she specialized in hurricanes and tornadoes. As well as being an active participant of a volunteer group that worked for natural disaster preparedness and recovery.