Tag Archives: story

Family visit and a nice surprise!

My cousins Nancy, Mary Ann and Theresa from Meridian MS and beyond came in the shop yesterday for a brief visit. I have not seem them in many years so always good to see family faces, familiar cheekbones, eyes and smiles. They brought me gifts. Press photos of my Great Aunts Neill and Jane, along with vintage newspaper clippings from the 1930s and ’40s. Along with all this was a stack of love letters that Jane and her husband Frank (Marine Corps General Frank Loomis) wrote to each other during their separation because of WWII – tissue-thin typewritten carbon copies, dated and numbered.

Both Aunt Neill James and Aunt Jane Loomis have been important to my existence – not just because they are my family – because they were strong courageous independent women at a time when women were encouraged by culture to be seen and not heard. Aunt Neill James was celebrated in her day (the ’30s & ’40s) as a writer, world traveler and amateur anthropologist of sorts, and I have written several essays about her life that have been published. She was my hero when I was a child. I did not get to know Aunt Jane until I was an adult and my husband Robert and I visited her, along with cousins Thomas and June Snowden, in San Diego in her home on Sunrise Circle. At that time, Jane was sinking into Alzhiemer’s and eventually needed an assisted living arrangement. Thus, Thomas and June stayed at length in Jane’s home to begin closing it up and settling where Jane’s and Frank’s belongings should go. While assisting them clean out the attic there, we found the stack of letters, still in envelopes and tied together. These were eventually stored in the Snowden’s home in Meridian. June has since passed from this world into the next and wanted me to have these letters.

jane neill lettersReading these letters was (and still is) somehow a feeling of violating Jane and Frank’s privacy. On the other hand, Jane saved these letters for a reason – perhaps to let the family know how they lived, what they did, where they traveled, and how much they loved each other. Like Neill, Jane was a world traveler and experienced cultures that most small-town girls (born in Gore Springs MS) did not.

Attic treasures. Threads of commonality. Story material.

What’s in YOUR attic?

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The Mystery Box

The air was cool on Friday morning, so the front door was open. I was inside the shop talking with friends when a young lady riding by on her bike stopped, parked her bike, then walked up the steps. I saw her stoop to pick something up. She knocked on our open green shutters. In her hand she had a white cloth beaded box, about the size of a shoe box, and she held out the box and said, “This was on your step.” She thought we had left it there, forgotten to bring it in. Apparently the box was left on the step by a stranger. The young lady was just riding by and saw the nice box and she thought that someone might pilfer it. She saw no one leave it there. We walked outside and looked around. No one was looking for a nice linen-covered box with hand-sewn beads. A jewelry box, or perhaps a sewing box. Inside the lid was a mirror, and a lone tiny red silk purse. Empty.
The box seems very old, and the backing was loose. I have repaired it now, but these photos show the box as it was delivered to my front step by the mystery person.

photo 5  photo 6

The lovely box contains a story. The beautiful woman who used this box had fine tastes, and I imagine a string of pearls may have resided inside.  The owner of this treasure box used it to hold special things. Who gave it to her, and why did she give it up? And who passed it on to me?
The City of New Orleans has many mysteries. This is one more.