Propped up against an old wooden wall, alongside half-rusted tools and years of dust, I found this piece of a newspaper in a frame. The frame was nothing special, nor was the yellowed front page of a newspaper from 1940. Just the usual daily reporting of wartime info, on a regular day, so I flinched at the $20 price tag and took pictures instead of purchasing. The place I was at used to be filled with cool broken down odd pieces but had unfortunately for me gone through a gentrification in recent years. Now the old stuff is woven in among all of the strategically placed new but looks vintage items which seems to be all the rage right now. I shook my head at the cutesy small pillows and stepped around all of the (dear god save me) antique white-washed wood pieces and carefully folded throws to creep around to the side away from the windows where dust still dances underneath the light of a bare bulb.
April 20, 1940.
The date meant nothing to me, and a quick google search didn’t bring up anything worth framing the front page over. The search did reveal one cool fact though—this newspaper, the Daily Express, was from England. I took a closer look, zoomed in on a few places and found this:
Look closely and you will see underneath Daily the words Black-Out 9.33 p.m. to 6.24 a.m.
Wow. That sent shivers down my arms. So how or why did this front page piece of newspaper end up here, in Connecticut, behind a frame?
Here’s the story—
She hadn’t even cleaned her shiny gold wedding band once before the telegram arrived, shattering her new world. Her husband of two months had been killed in action on April 20, 1940. She didn’t care where or how he died, not really. The knowledge would do nothing for her or the tiny seed of a child she carried in her womb.
When her eyes had emptied of tears and her skirt wouldn’t quite zip, she packed away her wedding china, wrapping each piece carefully in newspaper and into a wooden crate. She could have sold it all, unused as it was, but something propelled her to save it for her slowly-growing bump.
Some years later, after her second husband passed away and she was comfortably settled in America, did she happen upon that wooden crate in the attic. Her bump had grown into a smart and independent young woman, away at college, the same age that her mother had been when she first packed that crate.
Slowly the woman pried off the top of the crate. She brushed aside a strand of her still auburn hair as she looked inside, remembering the china wrapped away all those years ago. What she hadn’t remembered was the newspaper.
She had wrapped the pieces up carefully, slowly, without thinking but by muscle memory, in the only thing available to her, which was the newspaper from the same day as the telegram. The telegram was burned after she read it, words that forever changed her. Somehow the newspaper was forgotten, had slipped through only to be refound now, when years had eased the pain of raising a daughter who looked so much like her dead father.
She smoothed out a piece of that newspaper, which happened to be the front page. It’s wrinkled and creased but her hands keep at it until the piece lays straight. She takes that newspaper downstairs, along with an empty frame she doesn’t remember putting up there.
She gently places the newspaper into the frame, cutting the bottom a bit so that it fits. Before she closes it she stops, and walks away. She returns carrying a small white carnation, dried yellow and wrapped in a dark blue ribbon. The flower is too fragile so she unties the ribbon, from the boutonniere her soldier man wore on his wedding day, and smooths it onto the side of the newspaper where the advert for Lux soap is. She oh so carefully flips the frame over and seals it shut, trapping that day and those memories behind glass forever.
Too bad she never told her daughter.
Some years later the daughter is cleaning out her mother’s house and creates quite a pile for the local junk man to come and haul away. Sitting on top of that pile is a wood frame with the front page of an old and yellowed newspaper inside.
And next to that ad for Lux toilet soap a bit of dark blue ribbon could be seen, if anyone cared to look.