The old thatched farmhouse that was our family home for over 150 years recently changed hands. It fell to me to get it ready for the new owners and this included clearing out the dairy, where all kinds of rubbish and discarded household items had been dumped over the years. The dairy, a big, airy, high-ceilinged shed, was a busy place once. It was here that the separator extracted the cream from the milk, which was then placed in the big wooden churn, with the handle on the side, to make the butter. But that was all in the past, and here I was now, sitting in the middle of all the clutter wondering what in the name of God I should keep and what was for the skip. As I moved through the cobwebby books, mattresses, broken chairs and antiquated tools memories came flooding back. Then I had a mad idea. Why not string together all the highlights of growing up on a farm, in the forties and fifties, so that the life of that era could be remembered? The old dairy almost seemed to be whispering encouragement! With new eyes, I considered the trash and viewed these lost treasures. I wondered why on earth an old light bulb had been preserved. Then I remembered that my parents would never throw anything out. Electricity was a constant source of wonder to them. I thought of when it was first installed and what a difference it made to all our lives. There were several packs of playing cards still in their boxes on a shelf, which family members had brought back from various trips over the years. My parents must have preferred to use the old ones or else they were saving them for the ultimate card game! What pleasure we extracted from those cards when neighbours came to visit or when we held a special gamble for a goose. And was that the wing with which we used to brush around the fireplace? I thought of when my mother prepared our Christmas goose feast. It also reminded me of my ill-fated Bobby gosling . . . There were the rosary beads and missal I used in boarding school when we were all fired with devotion and piety. I remembered how cross Mother was if we hadn’t our beads ready for the nightly recitation of the rosary. We kept them on a nail on the inside of the closet door near the fire. This must not be confused with the wardrobes in America! Our closet was a built-in hole in the wall which contained all kinds of miscellaneous objects which were ready to fall out when you opened it! Nervously I peered into dark musty corners with a flash lamp. Electricity had never been installed in here. That would have been considered extravagant! I fell upon a box of Irelands Own magazines going back to the l960s, also some Our Boys comics and Woman’s Way weeklies. I couldn’t resist a quick read. As I sat back on a bumpy, damp, mildewed mattress, I was twenty-one again. Did we really wear our skirts that short? Reading had always been our great escape. We devoured anything we could get our hands on, suitable or not, though my mother kept a close eye. In the absence of radio and television we relied on our imaginations to create drama and excitement. I was almost afraid to open the old brown trunk, left by some American visitor in the thirties. What if a mouse had taken up residence! Was I ready for the reminders of childhood that might leap out, along with the mouse, to tug at my heart-strings? The thought of Yanks conjured up the excitement of parcels from America. I also remembered the magical year they came to visit when we had to sleep in the dairy. With their painted nails and strange accents we’d never seen creatures so exotic. All the unwanted items we had conveniently forgotten and left for safe-keeping now came back to haunt me. There was the fancy sugar bowl and jug that Mother won in a raffle and only took out when a T.D. was visiting! Here was a half-hidden, limp shoe-box full of old Communion, Confirmation and Birthday cards and a diary of my sister Eileen’s going back to l956. Dare I read it?