“Hi, Ruthie! What has got you so excited?” Matt asked as he came hurrying in. “You were almost incoherent on the phone.”
“Oh, Matt – I have just discovered a family secret that Mom and Dad kept from us all our lives!” Ruth opened the cedar chest and took out the box. “Look at this,” she said, laying it on the chair. “Be careful, treat the contents gently.”
Matt stared at her for a moment in confusion, then took the lid off the box. He lifted the envelope and opened it, read the message, and looked up at her wonderingly. “What..?” he began. “Just unwrap the contents. I want you to experience it the way I did.” Ruth said.
Matt did as instructed, and then stood, baby picture in hand, staring at Ruth, face blank. After a moment, he looked at the picture again. “Ruth, this baby resembles every family baby picture I’ve seen. Who is he?”
“That is what I wonder, Matt. All I can think of is that Mom had a child the year before she married Dad, either a previous marriage or illegitimate. I think it must have been an earlier marriage, from the message in the card. Do you think we can find out?”
“We can certainly try. Maybe there was an announcement in a newspaper, and there are archives at the Reference Library. I’ll get Nancy to do a search. She’s really good at that sort of thing, and she loves mysteries and knows how to keep her mouth shut. There may be a birth announcement, too. And a marriage couldn’t have been before 1940. Obviously, this IAMcF was the Ian MacFarlane the letters are from. There could be information in them, too. Have you read them?”
“No, I’ve been having too much trouble getting my mind wrapped around the idea of them keeping such a tremendous secret from us all those years. I’ve gone through the rest of the trunk, and there is not much of interest there. Though there is one very pretty dress and hat, carefully wrapped, that I wonder about. It’s a 1940s style. Maybe it’s her wedding dress from that first marriage. I’m too tired to do anything more today. I’d like to take the boxes of letters home and read them in comfort, later.
“Good idea. Let me copy the return address. His name and number could be a help in Nancy’s search.” He wrote quickly in a small notebook, slipped it back into his pocket, and took a moment to look around. “I’m going to miss this place. We have so many memories here – all our lives encompassed within these walls. But it’s too big now for any of us.” He shook his shoulders. “Anyway, the decision has been made, and I admit it’s the best one, but it is hard.”
“It is, Matt. I was two when we moved in here. And I used to go down to the end of the garden when I was five or six, and sit and imagine I saw fairies peeking out among the flowers. I remember telling Mom and asking her if she saw them. She laughed and said no, fairies never allowed adults to seem them, and I was a lucky little girl that I did. She said my life would always be happier because I saw the fairies.” Ruth smiled and sighed. “Yes, lots of happy memories. But even though we will no longer have the house, the memories are ours for life.”
“Ah, Ruthie, you always did know exactly the right thing to say.” Matt smiled and hugged her. “Do you need a ride home?” She nodded. “Ok, then, grab those boxes, and lets lock up here. You need a comfy chair and a cup of tea, and I am sure that young Alice is anxiously waiting to provide it.” Smiling, he put his arm around her shoulders and they walked out together, still puzzling over the mysterious baby.