Through The Lens, Mystery Of The Trunk, Part Three of Three
That April morning came too quickly for Matthew and Annie. They knew this meant good bye for the family for an unknown period of time. Matthew had requested reposting to Washington, but his commander realized his experience over these last several years gave them valuable insight in the political world of Europe.
The captain knelt down and hugged his son. He took his son’s small hand and placed in it the copy of Moby Dick. “Have your mother read to you until we see each other again. Promise me.” Will shook his head and held out his arms to his father. The young boy, trying to have a strong face for his father, could not hold the small tears as they ran down his face. He squeezed his father’s neck, “I love you Daddy.” The captain turned his head for a moment as he blinked to slow the tears in his own eyes. Matthew kissed the woman he loved and closed the family quilt around young Will to keep him warm. With that they turned and walked up the long walkway onto the great ship. He watched until he could no longer see the ship as it left for America.
Will asked his mother to sit outside in the ocean air and read to him the words of Melville. He stared out over the ocean and imagined the great whale waiting for Captain Ahab.
The air was often too cool for the young boy on deck. His mother, in their warm stateroom, told him of home along the Ohio River he had never seen and the warm summer days she spent with her family growing up on a small farm just outside of town. She smiled as she told of meeting Will’s father. “My family and I often went for a picnic lunch after church on warm Sunday afternoons. Near the mouth of the creek under the willow trees we would sit on the banks and watch the small birds feed in the gravel bars. Young boys would swing from an old rope tied in a tree and drop into the water.
“That is where I first saw you father. He would swing further than anyone else and land in the water with a great splash, come up from under the water, and look to see if I was watching-and I was,” she told her son.
Those were the words Will remembered as he fell into a deep sleep under the family quilt.
It took a few moments for Will to waken as his mother shook him. She had wrapped the young boy in the quilt and was fighting to find the way out of the half-darkened passageway. He was confused as to what was happening around him. Annie struggled to carry her young son and find the way out of the terrible place.
After what seemed an eternity of crushing people and confusion Annie made her way onto the deck of the listing ship. The ocean’s surface was dark, but the night sky made it possible to see outlines of small boats just past the reach of the remaining lights of the dying ship.
Annie ran from one boat station to another to another. The boats were gone. Had she missed her chance to save Will and herself? About then a ship’s officer grabbed her by the arm and pulled her without a word through a center passageway to the other side of the ship. “There may be room in one last boat, but we must hurry.” As they emerged onto the deck, the last boat was being lowered a way. Annie ran over and could see there was no room left for her. She looked at a woman who had four small children surrounding her in the full boat. “Please can you take my son? Please?” The women did not hesitate. She outreached her arms toward Annie and her son. “I will always love you,” Annie whispered to her son with one last kiss bye-bye. With that she pulled the locket from her neck and placed it in his pocket along with her journal. Wrapped in the quilt, she handed the stunned boy to the woman in the boat.
The last time he saw his mother’s face was as she looked down at him and the boat lowered to the waiting water. He remembered the sounds of the ship dying-the unseen air rushing out from the ship as the cold water rushed into her hull. Tearing metal sounds pierced the night as the ship ripped itself apart. Soon there was only the quiet of the night and the few souls crying in the dark to be saved. That sound did not last long.
When the survivors arrived in New York, Will was still in shock. He just stared and held his quilt tight around him. The mother who had opened her arms to the young boy that night spoke little English. She realized the only family the young boy may now have was to be hers. She raised the young boy as if he were her own.
Will grew up in New York and became a well know writer. After many years his adopted mother passed away. But before she died she gave him a key and told him it was to an old trunk long forgotten in the attic.
The trunk was dusty from many years in a dark hiding place. Will removed the lock and opened the cover to memories of a life so long forgotten. His mother’s silver locket and her leather bond journal. The journal’s last entries were made by his new mother so he some day would know the truth.
The locket that contained the picture of the beautiful woman he now remembers as his lost mother. That cold night he looked up as she threw him one a last kiss from that fated ship. All were things he long ago hid to dull the pain of his loss. The yellowed newspaper headline, 1517 Titanic Passengers Lost.
Last was the quilt he remembered so fondly. That warm blanket of security he remembered from his youth. As he spread it out on the floor of the attic, he realized why his mother called it a family quilt. Generation after generation had stitched the family history into panels on the quilt. And there in a panel of blue homespun was perhaps the answer to one last question. Where is home?
Will returned to the small town along the river-a place called home where he had never been. He spent a day inquiring about the man he remembered from long ago named Matthew Doolin. A local newspaperman explained, “I believe the man you are looking for is in the county nursing home.”
As he pulled his car up to the old brick building he was filled with emotions. A father he had not seen in years. Would he remember his son? Inquiring at the desk about his father, the nurse referred him to the staff doctor. He explained that his father had come home from the war and become a teacher. “All we ever knew about his past was he lost his wife and son many years ago,” he told him. “The last few years his mind has failed him and now he sits at he window and watches the sky.”
Carrying the small trunk, Will sat down beside the father he had not seen in over 50 years. He took the quilt and covered his father’s legs and placed the silver locket in his hand. Matthew moved his hand slowly over the homespun fabric and looked down at he silver locket. That tear he had blinked away many years ago now ran down his cheek.
Will opened the book he had hidden inside his coat that fateful night many years ago and quietly said to his father, “Chapter one, call me Ishmael. . .”
Bill replaced the old journal inside the trunk. He gently closed the trunk and slid it into a safe place, hoping someday Will and his family will be rejoined, Thru The Lens.