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American Fiction

I thought I was ready for this, but now as I open the door to my grandmother’s attic, tears stream down my face. It has been two weeks since we laid her sweet body in the ground. I can still feel her here in the house. I told my mom I would help, but now I regret that. We have been staying at a hotel down the street because neither of us wanted to open the door and not see grandma standing in the kitchen. When we finally felt strong enough to come to the house and go through her things, my mom and I drove in silence to get the job done.

I feel bad for my mom. Her dad passed away many years ago and she and her mom had grown closer over the years. I can tell, as we go through each room, mom is hesitant to get rid of anything. I have tried to be loving about it, but really, grandma held on to things for far too long. I encourage my mom to get rid of anything that does not hold sentimental or monetary value. She agrees and we start packing everything up.

I am not sure why the attic has me tearing up. I gave mom a break and told her I could handle the attic on my own. As soon as I opened the door, I remembered all the time I had spent up here as a girl. There were so many boxes of fun dress up clothes and old books. I remember coming up here and dressing up in one of grandma’s old dresses and curling up in a corner with one of her old books. It was a total escape and I loved it. The tears start rolling down my face again as I remember how much I loved it up here.

I decide that everything needs to be donated and start boxing things one section at a time. I am just about finished when I look up in the rafters and see one more box. “That’s odd,” I say to myself out loud. "Who would put a box up there?” I pull a few trunks over and climb up until I can reach the box. I pull it down and dust the top off. It is a gold tin with what looks like a logo to some old product. I am totally in awe of the old tin. It still shines gold and when I open the lid, and it smells good, like tea.   It is the tea tin that held my grandma’s favorite tea leaves. I remember she loved to drink the special lavender blends. We had many late-night talks over a few cups of that hot tea. Tears start to fill my eyes again.

I sniff the inside of the tin one more time and look inside. There must be 10 rolls of undeveloped film in here. Why on earth would anyone put these in a tin up in the rafters of the attic? They look like they have been up here for a long time, though there is no date on the rolls. I have to know what is on these rolls.

I take the tin downstairs and show my mom. She says she has never seen the tin before and has never seen the rolls of film. I pull out my phone and Google where to get film developed. It says that there is a camera shop down on Main Street that does dark room development. I am so excited, I grab my keys and the tin of film and run out the door, hollering to mom that I would be back in a few minutes.

The camera shop owner is a very nice older gentleman who remembers my grandmother fondly. He gave me his condolences and asked what I had in the tin.

“I found these rolls of film in the attic and really want to get them developed. They were my grandma’s, I think. Your website said you did dark room development. Can you develop these for me?” I explain

“I most certainly can, my dear, as long as they aren’t too damaged. I will have them ready for you tomorrow morning when I open,” he tells me.

I thank him and rush back to help mom finish up at the house. I am so excited to find out what is on the film. My imagination is running away with me. There could be anything on that film, or it could all be blank. That would be disappointing, but the possibility of something being on the film has taken my mind off the sadness for a few moments.

The next morning is dragging slowly waiting for the camera shop to open. I hardly slept at all with all the things running through my head about what could be on the film. I am on my third cup of coffee when my phone dings that it is 9 O’clock. I feel the excitement boil inside as I clean up my breakfast that I ate in the lobby of the hotel and head down the street.

The old gentleman was unlocking the door when I walked up to the door of his camera shop. He smiled and let me in. I think he could tell how excited I was because he quickly went behind the counter and handed me my photos.

“There were some blank spots on the rolls, so those photos did not develop, but there were a lot of really nice photos in there,” he said.

“Great! I can’t wait to look at them,” I say as I take the photos out of the bag.

The photo on top of the stack is definitely of my grandmother. It is a black and white photo of a young woman in a sundress with long blonde hair. She is standing under a big oak tree, and I am sure it is the tree in her front yard. She is beautiful, I can see where my mom gets her beauty. I flip through a few more pictures and stop when I see a man in one of the photos. He is very handsome. Even though the picture is black and white, I can tell that he has blonde hair, and is very muscular.

I pay the owner of the shop and take the photos to my grandma’s house where my mom is waiting for me. I toss my things on the kitchen table and sit down to look at the rest of the photos. Each photo is of this man and my grandmother doing things together. In one photo they are on a Farris wheel at what looks like a county fair. One photo was of the man and grandma in a field having a picnic. As I am flipping through the photos, it becomes very clear that my grandmother was very fond of the man. The last photo is of the man in a military uniform. Judging by the time frame of the photos, this must be from World War II. He is very handsome in his dress uniform with light pants and a dark uniform coat with a belt in the middle. The shiny bill of his service cap sits just above his dark eyes. The nametag on the right side of the coat says Manning.

I am just staring at the picture of this very handsome and mysterious man that obviously was important to my grandmother, when my mother walks in.

“What are you doing? Why aren’t you helping me?” She asks looking at the stack of photos in front of me. “Where did you get those?”

“These are the pictures that were on those rolls of film I found in the attic yesterday. I think grandma may have had an affair.” I said sounding a bit disappointed.

“What? Let me see those.” She said taking the pictures from me. “Well, I’ll be darned.” Mom said with a chuckle. “I always thought she made those stories up. She did not have an affair on your grandfather. This is Jasper Manning.”

“Who is Jasper Manning?” I ask even more confused.

“When I was a teenager and would go to my mom with boy trouble, she would tell me the most romantic stories about a man she once knew, Jasper Manning. She would tell me how much she loved him and how perfect he was. Every one of her stories fit into my situation, so I always thought she made Jasper up to help me through my hard times. I guess Jasper was real.”

“Well, what happened to him then? Why did grandma end up with grandpa if she was so in love with this guy?” I ask trying to clear things up in my own head.

“The last picture if of him in uniform, right? Jasper was drafted during World War II. Your grandmother said she wrote him every day for a year. She never heard from him, so she could only assume that he had been killed. She eventually met your grandfather and fell in love and married him. She kept Jasper a secret from grandpa though, if she never developed the pictures of him,” mom tells me as she flips through the pictures and smiles.

“I would have never thought that grandma would have a secret like that. She never said anything to me,” I say looking at all the pictures. “I wonder what really happened to Jasper Manning,” I say with a hint of curiousness.

“Grandma always assumed that he was killed in the war,” mom said, leaving the room to finish packing grandma’s things.

My mind starts to wander again. What if he had not been killed in the war? What if he had made it home and he and grandma had gotten married? Our lives would all be different. There is no proof that Jasper actually died in the war. What if he lived through it and is still alive?  I pull out my phone and start to Google Jasper Manning…

May 02, 2022 23:17

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2 comments

Heather B
14:38 May 07, 2022

Great job! Jasper Manning is a family name of mine. Is this story made up?

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Ginger Scharpe
18:44 May 07, 2022

Thanks so much. Yes the story and the names are totally made up. That name just popped into my head.

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