The bed sheets clung to my body on that sweltering August night. My feet peeked from between the sandwich of lightweight cotton seeking coolness. The sound of the ceiling fan swaying on its attachment plate made me nervous, but not enough to sacrifice the movement of air by slowing its speed.
The cause of my unwelcomed wakeful state could have been the temperature or the sound of paper rustling across the room, no doubt from the wind of the fan. Stubbornness prolonged my discomfort. I refused to adjust the thermostat down even one, single degree. Genetic thrift passed on to me by my parents motivated the 74 degree stifling lockdown, however my choice to breathe thick air did not need to include the sound of rustling paper.
I dragged myself out of bed to address the problem. Just in case the noise was not caused by the whirling fan and because I’m terrified of tiny rodents, I shielded my body with the bathroom door. I positioned my left eyeball to peek around the door and flipped on the bathroom light switch. Magically, the rustling noise came to a halt.
Thought #1: The bathroom door served as a poor shield. A rat of gigantic proportions could easily slide under the 1.5” floor clearance.
Thought #2: The noise is coming from the corner where I stashed all of the things on loan from Virginia Hare. Priceless. Irreplaceable things. Eighty to one hundred years of life in diaries, scrapbooks, yearbooks and letters. One little mouse in that corner could render unspeakable damage.
Clearly I had reached the extent of my abilities and needed to call in a professional. I gently woke my husband, a very, very brave rodent hunter. In a tiny whisper, (so the mouse didn’t hear our plan) I relived the previous 100 seconds of my life. He suggested moving the contents of the corner to the garage. I emphasized the substantial weight of Virginia’s life as it had accumulated. He asked if I could carry some of it. Negative! Touching something would make it possible for a mouse to run up my arm then God knows where. My grand contribution would be opening the garage door.
I climbed on top of the dresser while Scott carefully lifted a tote bag, a paper bag, a photo album, another paper bag and looked from the wheeled scrapbooking cube to me for help. I gave him silent reassurance that he could muscle the entire lot, hoping my confident smile and nod would help him press on.
He did it! I never doubted him a moment. At exactly the right time, I leaped off the dresser, sprinted to the garage door and flung it open for Scott and his heavy load to run past. I hopped back inside and my right eyeball watched around the corner of the door as my warrior husband carefully inspected the contents of each parcel.
No sign of any living creature. No droppings. No shreds of paper. No evidence of anything but my paranoia. Also, no complaining or chastisement from my patient rodent hunter. I love that man.
The sun rose before I carefully nestled Virginia’s life back into the corner. The responsibility of possessing a person’s memories can be heavy. Constantly aware of the significance of every slip of paper, I wash my hands to remove any excess oils before touching anything. I treat each piece with reverence. I accept the honor of being entrusted with these priceless belongings while anticipating relief of the responsibility.
Likewise as I write, I treat the story of Virginia’s life and friendships with kid gloves. It is an honor to listen to her stories, imagine her life and record it all in the form of an enticing tale. I look forward to sharing it with you even more than I look forward to returning Virginia’s precious memories.