It was years since I had set foot in the ell storeroom. But yesterday Aunt Em sent me there on an errand, and the souvenirs I came upon have disturbed me ever since, teasing my mind with memories that persist like fragments of old tunes.
There is a fascination in places that hold our past in safe keeping. We are drawn to them, often against our will. For the past is a shadow grown greater than its substance, and shadows have power to mock and betray us to the end of our days. I knew it yesterday in that hour I spent in the storeroom's dusty dullness, half dreading, half courting the pangs which each well remembered object brought.
So we sigh, perhaps, at the mute and stringless guitar with its knot of yellow ribbon bleached pale as a dandelion gone to seed. So we smile at the tarnished medal that set the heart pounding under the dress folds where it was once pinned. So we tremble or flush again at the flimsy favors and dance programs with their little dangling pencils and scribbled names.
"Now who was he?" we ask ourselves, puzzling over some illegible name. "I must have liked him very much to save him the first and the last dance."
And the old photographs in albums and boxes! It takes fortitude to meet the direct gaze of a child whose face is one's own in innocent embryo. It is hard to believe that the shy young woman with the sealskin muff is one's mother at nineteen beside a thin, merry-eyed young man whose features bear a faint resemblance to one's father. Their youth and gaiety are caught fast on this bit of cardboard all these years after that winter day when they sat for their pictures at the Junction photographer's. Here am I, a child of two between them, and here again at four with my arms about year-old Janice and the clipped French poodle Bon-Bon pressing close to my knees. That was the summer I first remember the big lawns and trees and high-ceilinged rooms of Peace-Pipe and all the curious New England relatives who peered at us. They asked questions that must be answered politely in English, not the French which Bon-Bon and I understood most easily. He and I still look bewildered in the picture, but Janice is completely at ease in her embroidered Paris dress and bonnet. Yes, there we are--Bon-Bon who has been still for years now under the thorn tree at the foot of the garden; Janice whose round baby eyes give no hint of the defiance I was to see there at our last meeting, and I, who will never again fit into those slippers with crossed straps or face a camera or the world with so steadfast a look.