Erica is having a Blogfeast for Thanksgiving: Participants are each writing 1500 words mixing Thanksgiving and family secrets. Read on and enjoy (and I had a hard time staying under 1500 words!):
Zachary pulled boxes off the attic shelves, stirring up the dirt as he did so. He started coughing.
“Dusty, isn’t it?” his cousin, Christa, asked. “I wonder when Grandmother last cleaned up here.”
“Dunno,” Zachary said. “She probably doesn’t come up here much.” He had already dusted off picture frames, photo albums, and ancient knick-knacks that had seen better days. He suspected that he and Christa had been sent to clean the attic just to get them out of the way while the grown-ups fixed Thanksgiving dinner, so he intended to look around if he had to be up here.
The wooden boxes had all been handmade by Zachary’s great-grandpapa. He had looked through them before; most of the photos, letters and books within had been passed down to Grandmother from her parents, including a small wooden horse from the 1800s that had belonged to Zachary’s great-great-grandmother. He loved looking at these artifacts of his family’s history.
A cardboard box he had never noticed before caught his eye; it looked like one of the photo boxes his mother was always buying at Hobby Lobby. He dusted it off and looked closer; written on the label, in his grandmother’s handwriting, was “Gordon Trueman.”
“Christa!” He called.
“Have you ever heard of Gordon Trueman?”
“I don’t think so.”
Zachary opened the lid. Lying on top was a picture of a man and a woman; they looked familiar. He turned it over.
Gordon and Mollie
November 24, 1938
Mollie? Mollie had been his great-grandmother, but his great-grandpapa’s name was Clyde. Maybe Gordon was a cousin.
Zachary lifted out the picture with care to look at what else was in the box. More photos, and some school report cards with Gordon’s name on the top, from a place called “Wise”. By the looks of things, Gordon himself wasn’t very wise; only his math grade was good, much like Zachary’s own report cards.
The next thing in the box was a newspaper clipping. Zachary looked it over.
“Hey, Christa! Come here!”
Christa came with a lot of grumbling. “I was right in the middle of something, Zach. What do you want?”
“Look at this.” He held it out to her.
Christa took the clipping and read it aloud. “‘Mollie Welch and Gordon Trueman. Married on February 18, 1939, in Wise, Virginia.’ Well, that can’t be right. Our Grandmother Mollie was married to Grandpapa Clyde. Clyde Bolyard.” She frowned. “There was surely more than one Mollie in the town, right? Do you know Great-Grandmother and Grandpapa’s anniversary?”
“No. But I’m going to keep looking and see if we can find out who Gordon was,” Zachary said. “Look! Birth certificates!” He picked them up. “Maurice Trueman, Grace Trueman, Richard Trueman, and …” Zachary stopped.
Christa took it from him. “‘Barbara Janine Trueman. Parents: Gordon and Mollie Trueman. Wise, Virginia. August 4th, 1941.’” She looked at Zachary. “Grandmother’s name and birthday. And her brothers and sister. They couldn’t have gotten the name wrong on four birth certificates.”
“But Grandmother has spent her whole life in Ohio—”
Christa interrupted. “No, she hasn’t. Her parents moved here when she was a year old.” The two of them stared at one another in silence for a second. “Keep looking, Zach. What else is in there?” Christa asked.
Zachary pulled out another picture. “A bunch of men in Army uniforms,” he said, and passed it to Christa. “And look! Letters! From England, it looks like,” he said as he frowned at the return address.
Christa slipped the letter out. “My Dear Mollie, I hope you are well. I miss you and the children…” Christa’s voice trailed off as she skimmed the letter. “It’s about him being away at war and leaving Mollie behind. It’s signed, ‘your loving Gordon’.”
“Look at this.” Zachary was holding a telegram and an obituary. “Gordon was killed in action.”
Christa read them, and then put everything back in the box. “I think this man must have been our great-grandfather,” she said.
“But he can’t have been! I remember Grandpapa Clyde!”
“So do I,” Christa said. “So we had better ask Grandmother.” She picked up the box.
“Christa, Grandmother sent us up here to get us out of the way while she cooks.”
“I know that,” Christa said. “And we’ll come back up after we find out about Gordon. But I want to know who he was.”
Zachary sighed. “You win,” he said. The two of them went downstairs, following their grandmother’s voice all the way into the kitchen.
Christa practically stormed in. “Grandmother, who is Gordon Trueman?”
Grandmother turned and saw the box in Christa’s hands. “I forgot that was up there,” she said, taking it from her. She opened the box without elaborating.
Grandmother looked up. “Gordon was Mother’s first husband. He was my father.”
The kitchen fell silent. All eyes were on Grandmother.
“Gordon? Your father? But—who was Clyde, then?” Zachary asked.
“My step-father. I didn’t know Gordon existed until Mother was dying.”
Silence still reigned as two generations of Gordon’s descendants tried to digest this news.
“Well,” Grandmother said, breaking the spell, “we have Thanksgiving dinner to fix, and you two have a job to do. Put this box in the living room, Christa, and I’ll tell you all the whole story at dinner.”
Christa did as she was told, and the two cousins went back up to the attic in silence. They finished their cleaning in time to wash their hands and change their clothes for dinner.
After grace, Grandmother began the story. “Now, Mother told me all this before she died,” she said, “and there’s no one left in the family who is old enough to remember Gordon.
“Papa, Clyde, was in love with Mother from the time they were children. He wanted to marry her. But Mother didn’t want to stay in Wise. She went off to the teacher’s college right after high school, where she met Gordon. Mother didn’t actually say so, but I think he got her into trouble and they had to get married. The twins certainly came quickly enough after the wedding. And then they had two more babies: Four of us in two years! I shudder to think what the neighbours must have said.
“Mother wasn’t going to be a teacher now, of course; she had babies and a house to look after. Pearl Harbor happened right after I was born, so Gordon joined the Army to fight in the War. He was killed before I was a year old. None of us remember him, not even my brothers.
“Mother went back home, a widow at 20, with four babies all less than three years old. Meanwhile, Papa had also joined the army. When he was home on leave before he shipped out he went to pay Mother a visit, and asked her to marry him. They got married the next day at the courthouse.”
“The next day?” Christa was aghast.
Grandmother smiled at her. “You must remember, dear, that Papa had loved Mother his whole life; he had always been waiting for her to say ‘yes’. And now he was about to ship out. I’m sure she didn’t think that she had any other choice for her future except to get married. I don’t know if she loved him that day, but in time, she certainly did.
“Mother asked Papa to never tell her children about Gordon. She thought it would be for the best for us to believe that Papa was our real father. And he loved us like we were his own. He adopted us as soon as he could, so we had his name and not Gordon’s. We never had reason to believe he wasn’t our natural father.”
“But no one ever told you?” Zachary couldn’t believe his ears.
“No. Papa had a house in here in Ohio, so he moved Mother and us children here before he shipped out, which meant we never heard any of the town gossip. Our aunts and uncles and so on agreed not to tell us, either; I think they all thought it was best for us, like Mother did.”
“When did Grandmother Mollie tell you all this?” Christa asked
“Not long before she died. She gave me the mementos of him that she had—the ones in the box—because she didn’t want anyone but her own children to find it. I told my brothers and sister right away, of course. It doesn’t really matter, anyway; it was a shock at first, but Gordon is only a name for me. Clyde was my Papa.”
“That is just weird, Grandmother,” Zachary said. “I can’t believe something like this happened in our family. It sounds like a movie!”
“It does,” Grandmother agreed. “But there was one more thing Mother told me, Zachary. She said that while Gordon has been gone for over 65 years, he did come back to us.”
“How’s that?” Zachary asked.
“You, Zachary, are the image of your great-grandfather, Gordon Trueman.”