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In a Sentimental Mood
It was years ago now, in this same, attic bedroom in my grandparents’ house. I was a little girl then; I was six years old with the biggest blue eyes and golden, spiral ponytails on either side of my pink, chubby cheeks. As I glance around this room, the memory of my grandmother consumes me. I choke as dust trickles into my throat as I pull a heavy box down from atop the old wooden dresser. The box is red with golden trim, covered with years of dust from its home on top of Grandma’s dresser. I attempt to set the box gently on the ground, knowing that, if I dropped it, its contents and my toes would shatter. I pull open the lid and begin to pour through the memories of someone lost. I find everything that once belonged to her; sprawled around me in every direction, I place her belongings, including journals, photographs, letters, and souvenirs, until, at last, I find my favorite. I can’t help but grin with pleasure as I carefully pull the little silver music box out of its dusty prison. A shiver climbs up my spine as I slip my finger under the latch, pulling it open. The music starts; suddenly, I’m a six year old girl again.
“Seven… Eight… Nine…” my nine-year-old sister counted slowly as we all scattered off, trying to find a hiding place in our grandparents’ suburban tri-level house. I frantically looked around, watching my cousins take all my typical hiding places. I needed to find the best one; I needed to go somewhere where my sister couldn’t find me. That’s when it struck me; I’d never been into that room on top of the stairs. Surely Grandma would punish me if she found me in there, but curiosity took over as I hopped up, skipping every other step. The door made a faint creaking sound a little as I pushed it open; I whipped around, making sure there was no one behind me, and then proceeded into the top room of my grandparents’ house. This was my grandparents’ room; it was bigger than even the living room of their house. The walls were a pale pink with flowered patterns climbing up to the ceiling. It was a whole new world to me; I’d nearly forgotten about the game of hide-and-seek my cousins and I had been playing for hours now. I shut the door behind me, fearfully looking around. I prayed that no one would catch me as I walked around. The air smelled as sweet as my grandmother’s gardens, as the summer breeze blew in through the opened window. I peeked out the huge rectangular window outside. The sun was blistering hot, but somehow this room wasn’t. The gentle breeze sent a quick shiver down my spine as I watched the cars drive by one of the busiest roads in this small town.
The floor squeaked under me, making me jump; I thought I had company. To my great relief, it was only my grandparents’ adorable, mischievous, gray kitten. As I turned back to face the window, I saw it; on top of my grandma’s dresser sat a little silver box. A smile crept across my face as I lifted the box with both hands and sat on the soft, cream-colored carpet. I stuck my little, sticky fingers into the latch, opening it up, filling the room with the sweet sound of a song I’d never heard before. It was an instrumental piece, and, as the music played, I fingered the intricate design of a rose on the inside of the small box. Being the nosy little girl I was, I pulled the only piece of jewelry inside out; it was a golden locket. The stubborn clasp refused to open, so I pulled with all my might until, finally, it popped. Inside, I saw a tiny, black and white picture. It had to be from many, many years ago. The young couple in the picture grinned back at me. The man was handsome in his white tux and black bowtie; it didn’t appear to be something anyone around these times would wear, but I didn’t really care. He looked so familiar, like someone I’d always known, with his dark eyes and dark, slicked back hair. He was grinning as he stood with a girl, who had to be the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She, too, had dark hair and dark eyes. Her hair fell in perfect curls at shoulder length. Her smile was electric; it was the kind of smile a person could see in her eyes, too. She looked so loving and caring, yet also so familiar. I slipped the locket around my neck and dreamed about what possibly might have been the story behind the two people. The music from the little silver box still filled the room as I got up and spun around. I imagined I was a ballerina on stage, spinning as fast as I could, while attempting to appear somewhat delicate. As I spun around, I lost myself in this other world, a world where I could be anything I wanted to be. Just as I picked up speed, I slipped on my own bare foot and fell- SMACK- onto the floor. It hardly hurt, but I was terrified that someone may have heard the noise of my body banging against the floor. To my dismay, someone had heard; the door pushed open slowly, revealing my grandmother.
“Sorry Grandma!” I blurted out, panicking. “We were playing and I-”
“Shh,” she whispered, cutting me off from my long-winded explanation.
I’m not sure why, but I felt tears stinging my eyes, as if I’d done something really, really wrong.
“It’s ok,” my grandma laughed. A smile grew across her face; the electric smile of the girl in the picture crossed my mind when I saw hers. There was something familiar about it. “What are you looking at?”
“This box,” I said, holding up the little silver music box. “And this necklace,” I added shyly. I slipped the locket off of me and placed it in my grandmother’s outstretched hand.
“Oh boy, I haven’t seen this in years,” she responded, taking a seat on a rocking chair. “Do you know who this is?”
“I don’t know, but she’s really pretty,” I replied as I climbed up next to her, pointing to the girl with the magnificent smile.
“That’s your grandpa and me,” she answered. “Back when we were only dating.”
“Really?” I asked in disbelief. “When was that?”
“That was a long, long time ago, in the 1940s,” she said. “It all started on a cruise boat. I was only seventeen at the time. Your grandfather was on a trip with his family, and I was on a trip with mine. It was a very expensive trip to take. My family had saved up for a long, long time, and we were determined to get to spend that time together before my brother moved away. There was a big, formal ballroom, and that’s where I first saw your grandpa. It was the third night of the trip when I finally journeyed down there; I put on the best dress I’d brought with me and sat with my fifteen-year-old sister at a table. The room was the biggest room I’ve ever seen. There had to be a hundred tables, and the most gorgeous chandeliers lit the entire room, showing sparkling light all over the dance floor. This band started playing. It was a really catchy song; I can’t even remember the name any more. That’s when I saw him; I looked up, and there he was. He was with some other boys his age, laughing and talking. He turned, our eyes met, and well, the rest is just magical I guess!”
I’d only heard these kinds of stories in the fairy tales my mom used to read me before bed, back before I could read for myself. It seemed like my grandma had a little princess story of her own.
“Grandma, were you a princess?” I asked.
“No, no I wasn’t a princess,” she answered, smirking. “I was just a lucky girl who found my prince.”
“Grandma, do you think I will find a prince, too?” I responded, extremely curious.
“Well, you are a princess, so yes. You will find your own prince, too, and you’ll be so happy. You’ll have a big, pretty wedding, and I’ll be so old that I’ll need two canes!” she explained, making me giggle a little.
“That’s really old!” I responded. “So, after you and Grandpa saw each other, what happened?”
“Well, I smiled; I felt pretty stupid about it, too. I just smiled at him and, to my surprise, he smiled back. I didn’t know what to do! I turned away and started talking to my sister again. Then, as the music picked up, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder; it was your grandpa! He introduced himself, and I told him my name, and then we just danced together and got to know each other,” she explained.
“Weren’t you scared of cooties?” I asked, wanting an honest answer. I was six; cooties were a legitimate fear.
“He didn’t have any,” she laughed. “You’ve got to make sure your prince doesn’t have any.”
“Ew!” I exclaimed, making her smile again. “So what’s the music box from?”
“Well, your grandpa bought that for me while we were dating; the song is the song that was playing when we met,” she answered.
“Wow, this song must be very old!” I responded, unable to comprehend the passage of time.
“Yes, it really is,” she said with a smile. “So, how about we put this away for now, and we go get some ice cream sandwiches downstairs with your cousins?”
“Ok!” I responded. I slipped my hand into hers and journeyed out of the room, pulling the creaky door closed behind me.
The music from the box stops playing, and I’m pulled out of my fantasy. I feel a tear trickle down my cheek, remembering those days. I feel the cold locket in my hand and slip it over my head, around my neck. I hold the small heart close to mine, as I close my eyes and picture that summer day again, back when this room didn’t smell of dust. The door creaks open, just as it always used to, revealing a man almost as handsome as the one in the picture, with his own dark brown hair and big, brown eyes.
“Ready to go?” my fiancé asks, holding a box of my grandfather’s miscellaneous tools.
“One minute,” I respond. I open up the locket, staring down at the cute young couple inside. They smile back at me, giving me their approval on who I’ve selected as my own prince. I stand up and grab what I came in here for in the first place, my grandmother’s wedding dress, laying on the queen-sized bed. As I lift the delicate white laced dress I carefully, I turn towards the doorway. My fiancé is down the stairs now, but there seems to be someone else standing there. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it looks as if there’s an old woman, one with an electric smile and lively, dark eyes, standing there, gripping onto two canes. A smile grows across my face as the image of the woman fades, and, instead of the dress, I decide to pick up the music box first. I flip it over after I close it up and read “In a Sentimental Mood,” engraved in gorgeous cursive.
“I’ll say,” I laugh a little, slipping the box into my purse as I grab the dress and head out the creaky door for the last time.