Grandmother's Trunk


Grandmother brought many things both her from Europe. I can still remember the big rug. It was eight by ten feet long and hung on the side of the wall near our bed. In subdued, and yet rich, colors of red, brown green, blue and mauve. It was a romantic scene of a young man and woman in a gondola. The rest of the room was bleak by comparison.

Since we had very little storage space, she kept many of the items in the trunk. At the bottom was the heavier silverware. There were several trays, serving pieces and some flat ware. These were rarely used since they required polishing and there was little time for such frivolity.

In the second layer were books-- religious for the most part. Some of these were prayer books. One of these was a thick book with a very hard shiny cover that looked like marble with waves of brown and tan crashing together. It looked very expensive. There were other smaller books and a few story books. Grandmothers favorite book was a large thick one with a hard black cover. This contained prayers for every occasion. We were most familiar with it since she used it frequently, in good times and bad. In later years, it was kept on our altar. From these early 'microchips' of knowledge and imagination Grandmother or Father would periodically read passages or stories. Grandmother would then return the books to the trunk which she kept locked. It was on these occasions that she would allow us to accompany her and share the other treasures. She had a thick album of all her family members and she enjoyed showing these to us --pictures of her parents and others who were still in Poland. There were also wedding pictures and other pictures of my grandfather (her husband) Alexander Malinowski.

Grandfather was the first to migrate to the new world. It was the end of the 19th century. Times were hard in Poland. He was accompanied by his two eldest sons Teofil and Stanley.. Initially, they raised cows and developed a mini dairy delivering milk and cheese to the patches. Grandmother came later with daughters Antoinette and Helen. Grandfather always missed Poland and could not adjust to the ways of the new world. He eventually returned to Agustow, Poland. That same year Uncle Teofil moved to the Chicago area. Grandmother, unwilling to leave her children and grandchildren behind in Morea, remained in the United States.

She also showed us pictures of relatives who, in better days, were judges and teachers and businessmen-in hopes that we too would aspire to greatness-- a faraway dream considering our circumstances.

There were also holy pictures. Among these were pictures of the stations of the cross. She would bring these down from the attic and display them on her special altar during Lent. Another treasured picture, different from the rest was a picture of the Virgin Mary in which the Virgin's face was blackened.

After we moved into our house in Morea, Pa made her-her own altar in the living room. It was a shelf held up with brackets witch was half the length of the back wall. On this shelf she placed all her holy pictures. In spring and summer we would pick flowers for the altar. We used jelly jars or various glasses for containers. We had no vases.

Every night before we went to bed grandmother would have us kneel down before the altar with Its holy pictures and cross, to say our prayers. The ritual was repeated in the morning.

The upper portion of the trunk, an area that occupied fifty percent of its capacity, contained clothes. At the bottom she had a beautiful richly beaded, black cape which she never wore and which she kept wrapped in cloth. Although she only showed it to me once, the rich colored bead work was ingrained in my memory. Also, neatly layered, were beautiful, fancy, satin skirts and blouses which were trimmed in fancy ribbons and ruffled.. Most were black. On top were hats-- all trimmed both ribbon. Again, most here black. Grandmother was very proud of her hats and each weekend, she wore one or the other as she left for church.