Aaron was in the attic, his granny’s attic. I don’t know what it is with attics and children but they are constantly seduced by its dust, its chaos, its smell of old memories. Because that is what grannies’ attics are: living memories of past lives that still talk to us from beneath layers of dust. Indeed, children are able to infuse dust with new life, through the touch of their hand, driven by their wild imagination.
Toys were so different back then, games were different: simple and slow, in the open air regardless of the weather. The rocking horse, the chalk board, the spelling book…. Aaron new them all by heart, he had a kind of reverential respect for them; he felt that they were not just objects: he unconsciously grasped that if they were in the attic, someone wanted to save them from the abyss of time, from forgetfulness and negligence. Somehow, he felt that dust was protecting these remains, chaos was giving them a place and he was part of this new order.
Aaron, dinner’s ready!
I saw him holding that little tin box again. Pink flowers were painted on the lid, or at least they used to be pink. It was a cigarette tin box; they do not sell them anymore now so I am actually not sure about it but in my mind, it was a cigarette tin box and that’s what I had told Aaron when he first found it in the attic, buried under old books and magazines.
Mummy please, tell me the story of the tin box again!
I smiled at him. My boy could be so sweet, I knew I had only few precious years before this magic would vanish and turn into another type of relationship. He loved that story, I loved it too: my mother had told me the story of the tin box on a scorching summer day when I was in my teens, and her mother had confessed that story to her on a rare moment of intimacy.
John left that fancy tin box in the house. He was an American soldier, fighting in Italy to liberate it from the Nazis. It’s not fiction Aaron, it’s history. He had landed in Sicily and walked his way through southern and central Italy. The situation was very confused. In this same village you could hear people speaking German, English and Italian: it had never happened before. This village where your great granny used to live and where you spend your summer breaks, had been taken by the Nazis. That’s why John was here, in the attic, the very same attic where you spend so much time. He used to live there, hiding from the Nazis, protected by your great granny and her sister Maria. Your great granny was a sturdy woman; the work in the fields had made her strong, whereas Maria was a delicate flower with curly ginger hair and soft hands. They took good care of John, they fed him for almost three months, they would cook stew for him, the same stew that your granny cooks for you every Sunday. They would try and communicate sometimes: it wasn’t easy because he didn’t know any Italian and they certainly didn’t speak any English. But when you are kind, you don’t need many words. Kindness is a language made of smiles, gestures and benevolent gazes. They would take turns to spend time with him in order not to raise any suspects with the neighbours. You know how nosy neighbours can be! But then they started having deeper feelings for John: he was strong and handsome indeed, like your daddy, like you will be some day! They fell in love with him and so not only did they bring him stew but also small gifts: sometimes a glass of good wine, sometimes a picture book, sometimes they would play chess or draughts together. Both your great granny and her sister thought that John was falling in love with them. Of course, they never openly discussed the issue with each other, it was too embarrassing and, at that time, it was even considered highly inappropriate for a girl to court a boy.
Then one day the war was over and everyone was free. John left. His life was across the Atlantic Ocean, far away in America. A long journey awaited him. He was happy and sad at the same time: it was clear that he had grown very fond of both girls. But sometimes you must say goodbye to people that you love, even if you’d like them to stay with you forever, even if you’d like things to remain the same. But it’s not possible, life is constant change.
And this old tin box? Well, it’s still a mystery, the greatest and most fascinating mystery of our family: it’s a love token, that’s a fact. We know that John gave it to the girl he loved, to say good bye. But we will never know who this girl was: was it your granny? Or was it her sister Maria? Your great granny fiercely claimed that John had given it to her on his departure day while he kissed her, a long loving goodbye kiss. But Maria claimed exactly the same. This little tin box has remained in this house where both your great granny and her sister lived and then I found it in the attic when I was a little girl and I used to visit the attic the same way you are doing right now, and your granny told me this story exactly as I am doing right now with you. Even your aunties know it and sometimes we still speak about it on the phone and we try to imagine what happened and who the soldier loved: was it your granny?
We will never know the truth, it will remain buried in the attic, but keep on looking Aaron, you might find other clues buried up there and you might fill the missing parts with your own imagination. And when you have children, they will explore the same attic and you’ll tell them the same story of the American soldier.
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Hi Francesca, My name is Ben Woolfrey, I am a Storyteller on an app called AURA. similar to the CALM app. I would like to see if you would give me permission to read your story "The Tin Box" on the Meditation/story app. I will state, Written by "Francesca Zanoni" at the beginning and end of the story. I love your stories and when I receive any comments I will forward any info to you, if you would like. Thank you, Ben Woolfrey Voice Choice.1 firstname.lastname@example.org www.linkedin.com/in/ ben-woolfrey-197157118
Hi Ben, thanks for your kind words. Please feel free to use my story. Francesca www.linkedin.com/in/francesca-zanoni-1b2650137/