Tuesday, December 6, 2011

not just another suitcase

My Aunt Helen had a birthday last week. She is my late mother's sister, two years younger. When my mother was ten years old, their mother died after a difficult childbirth. A year later, the father died from pneumonia. They were both in their thirties, and left seven children behind. 

Four of the middle children went to a nearby orphanage - my mother, two younger sisters and a little brother. 

We had visited Aunt H. during the summer, and she'd told us she was going through her things which she'd received from others and asking if they wanted the items back. At her age, she wanted to get her stuff in order. She had something for us, but we'd had no prior knowledge of it. 

When my mother was nineteen she left the orphanage. When Aunt Helen's turn came to leave, my mother gave her a little suitcase with things in it which she might need and maybe be unable to get for herself.  Aunt wasn't sure exactly what was in there so many years ago - underwear, and some other things. She brought out the suitcase. 

We hadn't known about it. I have to say, I'm not sentimental. I don't like to save anything which isn't useful; this house is only a thousand square feet.  But the story was very touching, and this small suitcase seemed a very beautiful and important thing. So I said, "Yes, of course we want it!"

It has a pretty lining. 

 Apparently, when clothing donations would come in at the orphanage, my mother would go through the items to find some nice things for her siblings. And, having left the place before her sisters, she must have been thinking of what would have been helpful to her at the time she left - what might be useful to Helen.

I think it's beautiful.  I'm keeping it.


  1. What a treasure, thanks for sharing the story and the pictures.

  2. I love old suitcases. The stories they could tell. Yours is a good one. I didn't know your mother was in an orphanage. My grampa was in one, too. He came from a family of twelve children. They lost their father when he fell while fighting a fire (he was a firefighter in the early part of the century) and their mother died of a broken heart a year later. My grampa was three years old when his mother died so he went into the orphanage and didn't come out until he was about fourteen. That's a long time to be away from family.