Two steamer trunks have been waiting in the storage room while I sort the rest of the house out.. They belonged to the Crossman family, from whom we boughta home in 1965 or 66. We bought their home, much of the furnishings, and a whole bunch of stuff. So as I am sorting out my Dad’s belongings, I always ask, “Was this ours, or the Crossman’s?” More often than not, it is a Crossman item — victorian photos, old books, furniture, and these two trunks standing on end, with hangers and drawers. Perfect for a trip on the Titanic.
When I was a girl, the trunks were where my mother stored my hand-me-downs (I was child #4, girl #3, so I was the Queen of Hand-me-Downs) and halloween costumes. I still remember going with my mother into the garage, opening a trunk, and finding my first BRA — bright yellow and stretchy — a hand-me-down from one of my sisters. Yes, we handed down everything!
One trunk opens easily It is latched the traditional way, with clasps and an unlocked place for a key. It is full of wondrous items I half remember. Lace flapper dresses, a grass hula skirt, felt wigs. My father’s leather boxing shoes that we used to use for gigantic clown shoes, my grandfather’s sealskin hat he wore when it was cold in Montana. My Raggedy Ann apron and bloomers. Dresses that could be from the 1800s! Corduroy knickers, a pill box hat,, lingerie from the 1940s. And clothes from Saudi Arabia from when my parents lived there — a men’s thobe, and women’s garment. Costumes, costumes, costumes!
The other trunk, however, is a mystery. I call my Dad. “Do you know how to open this thing?” It has a hinged top on half of it, a completely blank metal lock that is open, and is wedged tight. We turn it on its side, peer at the bottom, look for hidden buttons. Finally we give up and eat lunch. After lunch I Google: “How to open a steamer trunk circa 1900” and discover that some had to be opened in stages: Turn lock 1/2 degree and a bar locks into place to close the drawers, for example.
Upstairs, I examine the lock again. I had accidentally turned it when we were lowering the trunk to the ground. I thought I had broken it. I turn it again and tug at the sides. The trunk eases open!
Inside drawers are piles of material scraps from clothes my mother made for us, each scrap a memory. Hanging on the hangers, though, are the dresses themselves. The dress my mother made for my 9th grade graduation. The dress she made me to play violin in the orchestra. Dresses she wore in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Dresses she got at a rummage sale and worm every day. Friendly dresses. Mom dresses. My Dad chokes up seeing the ordinary day to day dresses. “She always looked so nice,” he said. “Like she just stepped out of the kitchen.”