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Treasures in the Attic

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The attic at the Rockbell house was dark, dusty, and hot as an oven.  Edward was glad he’d brought the fireplace brush with him, since he was using it like a fencing foil to clear the cobwebs away as he made his way to the window.  Of course, it didn’t want to open at first.  A quick curse and a few beats of his fist around the frame and it swung out, letting a refreshing cool breeze into the cluttered space.

“Whaddya got all this junk up here for anyways,” he bitched under his breath, dusting his hands off before putting them on his hips.  “I doubt we’re gonna be able to find what we’re looking for in this mess!”

Pinako shrugged.  “I’m an old woman, Ed.  This junk is a lifetime of memories.”  She wandered to a random pile of things, picked up a photo frame and blew a layer of dirt from the glass.  “Still, maybe it is time to start letting some of this go…”  She looked back up at him and grinned wickedly.  “It’d be a good workout for your arm to clean the place out this fall.”

Ed groaned, whining about how he wished he’d kept his mouth shut.  Then he sighed, “I guess we’d better start digging if we’re gonna find this crib.  Do you have any idea what side of the room it might be on?” he asked as he pushed his sleeves up.

Pinako tapped her chin, thinking.  “I thought we put it in the back corner on the right… At the time, there was a leak in the roof on the left corner, so let’s start there.”

They made their way over to where she suspected it to be, and Ed shone the flashlight around until he made out the carved rails of the baby bed.  Unfortunately, it was about seven feet away from where they stood, and piles of old boxes and crates stood in the way.

“Granny, maybe we ought to have a yard sale,” Edward said as he noticed a metal box labeled ‘Drill Bits’ in the old language.  “I’m sure some collector would buy some of this stuff up for a pretty penny.  And it’s just sitting here anyways.”

“Maybe.  But that still doesn’t get that crib out of here.”

Ed nodded.  “Okay, okay.  Let’s make some room to shuffle some of this out of the way, maybe stack some boxes on top of other boxes, shove shit around a little bit.”

While Ed would have been happier to throw everything he picked up out the window and be done with it, Pinako him-hawed around, opening up boxes and peering inside, regarding the contents with eyes lost in time.  He nudged her with his elbow, a moldy cardboard box in hand.

“You can reminisce once we get the crib outta here,” he said as he plopped the box into her arms.

But she was already opening that one up, too.  Before he could raise his voice at her however, she oohed and said, “Ed, you might want to take a break.”

“I wanna get outta this hot attic!” he exclaimed, wiping his brow with his forearm.

“I know, but look- this was Trisha’s.”

He blinked and grabbed the flashlight, shining it into the box.  Inside was a smaller box, and it contained some buttons, a dried flower pressed between some parchment, a green velvet ribbon, and an old wooden jewelry box. 

“What’s this?  Why’s it up here?” Ed asked, taking the smaller box as Pinako handed it to him.

“Well, I don’t know if Trisha ever told you, but when she was little, I think about six years old, there was a terrible flood.  They lived on the Kriki River bank, on the other side of the railroad.  Your grandfather died trying to save the neighbors, and after that, Trisha was afraid that another flood would wash the new house away too, just like the old one.”  She took out the green ribbon and felt the fuzzy velvet between her fingers.  “She brought her most prized things here to our attic, because this house sits on a hill.  She figured ours would be the last house to ever wash away, and knew her valuables would be safe here.”

Ed sighed, smiling.  “Aww, Mom.  Child logic, right?”

“This ribbon was the last thing your gramps gave her before he died.  And the jewelry box was your granny’s, from when she was first married.”  She went on to say the buttons had come from a favorite dress she’d outgrown, and that she didn’t know if there was anything in the jewelry box or not.

Edward opened the worn jewelry box and his jaw dropped.  Inside was a tiny gold ring, a child’s necklace, and two small tin photographs.  “Granny, look,” he said, taking the photos carefully from the velveteen lined compartment they were in.  “Is that Mom?  And my grandparents?”

Pinako adjusted her glasses, gazing back in time on the tin sheet.  Her lips curled softly as she nodded.  “Sure is.  Your granny was about three months pregnant there, too.  She lost the poor thing because of all the stress of the flood.”

Edward gazed at the faces frozen on the metal surface.  His mother was so small, so young.  He’d never seen a picture of her at such a young age before.  He never knew about a flood, never thought to ask where his own granny was, or if there was even a gramps.  It was like discovering a new room in a house you’d lived in all your life and never noticed. 

The second photo was just of his mother.  Taken in a studio, the backdrop looked like a fancy veranda at a wealthy estate- flowers in expensive looking vases and marble columns guarding a pair of doors.  This must have been the dress she loved so much.  The silver buttons gleamed like new coins, even in the faded sepia tone of the print.  There was a sailor collar and cuffs, a wide ribbon sash tied at her back and her hair was pulled into a high ponytail, accented with a thin ribbon- maybe the green ribbon in Pinako’s hand.  Her shoes were buttoned up past her calves and her eyes sparkled with a child-like mischief, as if she were holding back a laugh.  Her tiny grin melted Ed’s heart and he said, “She’s adorable.”

Pinako agreed.  “Full of joy, despite the hardships she endured.  She was always that way, even ‘til the end.”  She patted Ed’s shoulder.  “See?  It isn’t all junk up here!”

Ed nodded, looking back at the first photo, at the faces of the grandparents he never got to meet.  “Yeah!  I wonder what other kinds of treasure we’ll find up here!”

Granny laughed, commenting that maybe they’d better finish their first mission of getting the crib out before they signed on to do any more treasure hunting.

“Besides, you can do that on a cold, rainy day!”

Ed couldn’t argue with that logic.  He took the jewelry box, now with the velvet ribbon inside, and took it down to show Winry, then returned to dig out the crib, more motivated than before to restore the bed Winry’s father slept in as a baby.