Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Silent Testament to a Story Nearly Forgotten

The photo to the left is of my grandparents, Bill and Lillian Knutz, taken sometime prior to 1957, the year their farm home burned to the ground.  I love the picture, but one of the things I enjoy just as much is looking around at the background of these old photos.  These things tell the story of their lives, day to day.  I see the radio, where Grandma first discovered soap operas.  I see a starfish hanging on the wall, most likely something Lillian's father in California sent her (he liked to spend time swimming in the ocean and collecting shells).  But what really caught my interest was the two wooden leaf-shaped shelves.   I know my mother made these in fifth grade at age 12, as my grandmother told me, and also documented with a handwritten note taped to the back.

Taking a closer look at one of the shelves tells the real story.  Notice the burned wood along the upper edges of the shelf.  This was from the fire that consumed their home and most everything in it, in May of 1957.  Oh, the stories this little shelf could tell!  As the house was burning, the family ran in and out trying to salvage as many of their possessions as possible, until the fire department arrived on the scene and took over.  The firemen pushed grandma's piano out of the smoky house, which meant a lot to them - when they weren't busy farming, they had a dance band to bring in a few more dollars.  A fireman was able to grab one of the little leaf shelves off the wall, but not the other.  Much of the rest of their things, including clothes, housewares and furniture, were destroyed.  The starfish was destroyed.  The radio was destroyed. But this little leaf shelf lives on.

It now hangs on our wall, with a small picture of Jesus sitting on it, just as it did in my grandparents' house in town.  But the blackened edges of the wood testify to a story long, long ago and mostly forgotten.

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