You’ve gone to your parents’ home, the place where you grew up, and are searching through the attic for some old, high-school memorabilia. You come across a shoebox-sized, lidded wooden box you’ve never seen. What did you find in it? Set your timer for 10-15 minutes and write.

Dad hollered after me as I climbed the pull-down stairs to the attic. “I haven’t been up there since your mom died. God knows how you could find anything at all.”

I flipped the light switch on at the top of the stairs. He wasn’t kidding. The place was cloaked in spider webs and dust. Scared as I was of spiders, I was willing to brave the sticky strings. I was looking for my high school yearbook, and I knew exactly which box it was in. Unfortunately, where the box was was anyone’s guess.

It was cold up here in the unheated space. I shivered and shined the flashlight I’d brought with me around the dark edges of the room. The bare bulb overhead did little more than cast shadows in the corners. The porthole-sized window in the pitched eave didn’t show me much except the dust motes flying unseen around my head. The smell of old clothes and cardboard boxes permeated the place. I found one box of books I thought I might take home. Opening it, I flipped through my beat up copy of Jane Eyre. The thing was full of dust mites. I breathed the smell of old book in and thought idly, they ought to make a room spray that smells like this.

Wooden BoxI just wasn’t seeing my hoard of sacred school junk anywhere. I’d practically rearranged the whole damn attic when I stumbled upon a beautiful wooden box I’d never seen before. About the size of shoebox, it had a lid with a keyhole, but it wasn’t locked. I sat down on mom’s old cedar chest, rested it on my lap, and lifted the lid. Inside was a red leather book.

Red leather journalSetting the box aside I thumbed through the pages and realized it was a journal — my mother’s journal. The journal of a women who had never been willing to share her past. When my sister and I would ask her to tell us about how this or that was when she was growing up, her answer was always the same — there was nothing good to talk about. The last thing we would have suspected is that she’d put her life down in a journal.

The first entry was dated in January of 1929. I did a quick calculation and figured out she’d have been ten. The last entry was October 1997, just a year before she died. I had stumbled on a treasure.

Yearbook forgotten, I put the journal back in the box and closed the lid. I wondered if dad had known about this book. I wondered if I should even ask. Sticking my flashlight in my sweater pocket, I turned off the overhead light and backed down the narrow steps, the box tucked firmly under my arm.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” dad asked from the downstairs living room.

“More than,” I answered. And closing myself in my old room, I dropped down on the bed, took out the book, and started to get to know my mother.