My next challenge was the dining room. As I stood in the middle of that big, empty room, my mind wandered back to the days of a simpler time. A time before computers and cell phones and video games. A time when families sat down together at dinnertime and talked about their day.
I kept a wonderful round oak dining table with lions’ paw feet which was one the pieces left behind. All it needed to be a warm, inviting place to eat, was a good cleaning and polishing.
A wood-burning stove was sitting in front of the fireplace on a bed of slate. I wondered how many times the family had dined while being warmed by a fire in that unique stove. A flu cover still hung on the wall and when I took it down to clean it, I saw that it was made of plaster. A paperclip had been embedded for hanging. On the front, a set of smiling cherubs floated on billowy clouds, looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world.
As I was sweeping, I noticed something under the stove. I coaxed it out with the broom handle and realized that it was a Bible. My first thought was that I wished I could return it to the previous owners, but I didn’t know who they were. I sat down for a minute to take a look. It was a Scofield Reference Bible. I had never heard of that. I always thought a Bible was just a Bible.
Inside the pages, I found numerous pieces of paper. I admit that I was hoping to find a note from the little child. One piece was the church budget for the year 1994. There was an article from “The Work Of The Holy Spirit,” subtitled, “Being Faithful.” On the top of the page, someone had written, “Monday, 12th, 1989.” An interesting one was a small piece of paper dated 9-9-84. It was hand-written and said “Funeral Home Is Expensive.”
A tattered bookmark said “Capricorn.” I laughed as I thought, “I know Jesus was Capricorn, but I am fairly certain this Bible did not belong to Him.” On the outside of the Bible, the owners’ name had been printed in gold letters, but they were so badly worn, the only thing that I could see was that he was apparently a “Jr.”
I was completely enthralled as I rifled through the pages. Most of the notes were scripture references, written in pencil that were now barely legible. I carefully returned each one to its original page, and all together, I counted 38 clippings tucked away in that old Bible.
I put the Bible aside and finished sweeping under the stove. Among the dust and dirt, I found another note. I opened it and began to read. It said; “I bought this Bible for my daddy when I was 13 years old. I saved my lunch money and took the neighbors’ mail to the post office for 10 cents. It took a long time to save up enough money but I don’t think it meant anything to him.”
I went from “aw, how sweet,” to “oh, how sad.” I was disappointed that it wasn’t signed or even dated. I had no idea who wrote the message, but I felt sure that it was from the little child.
I busied myself cleaning, taking down ceiling panels and carrying loads of rubbish to the curb. As I was inspecting the mantle in the dining room, I found another folded piece of paper stuck behind it. This was becoming almost like a scavenger hunt for me. I was excited as I opened the note and started reading.
It said,” Dear God. Please don’t let Granny die.” It was dated 1959. Someone loved their grandmother, I thought. I knew the feeling. I loved my grandmother, too.
I was truly enjoying the notes I was finding and I was absolutely mesmerized , but one question lingered. Were these notes written by a little girl or a little boy? The dates were on them but I had no idea how old the child was.
I was nearing completion of the dining room and as with the living room, there was an element of sadness coupled with the feeling of accomplishment. The last task was cleaning the windows and as I was spraying them with cleaner, I noticed a small piece of paper hiding behind the casing.
I pried it out with a small screwdriver, sat down and carefully opened it. It said, “Dear God. I didn’t mean to be bad. Could you please make me a better little girl?” It was dated 1957.
I jumped up and cheered to the point of embarrassment. The mystery was solved. The notes had been written by a little girl. She had obviously done something wrong, at least in her eyes. I couldn’t help but smile as I wondered what she had done to make herself feel that she was so bad, she needed Gods’ help.
Weeks later, the dining room was finally finished, so I decided to work on the upstairs bedroom that I had claimed for my own. I had previously noticed a small room in the very back of the house that appeared to be unfinished. It may have been an afterthought of whoever built the house or maybe it was just an incomplete addition in recent years. It was such a curious little room, which could possibly hold secrets…or more notes.
It only had baseboards along two walls and only one small window which seemed out of place. The rest of the house had grand windows that were 10 feet tall, and this one couldn’t have been more than two feet high and two feet wide.
The walls had been partially painted a dull blue color. I didn’t think it could have been a bedroom, but if it was, it could have only held a twin size bed and maybe a very small table.
My thoughts were to turn it into a library of sorts, putting shelves along the walls and maybe a comfy chair and lamp in the corner. I started removing the baseboards, and they proved to be formidable foes. I finally succeeded in getting the first one to yield, and when it surrendered its grip, a note fell to the floor.
I sat down and opened it. “Dear God,” it said. “I hate you.” It was dated 1964.
The notes had just spanned eight years. Why did she now hate God? I felt so sad for her, but like threatening to run away from home, hadn’t we all at some time, been a little pissed at God? I know I had.
The other baseboards held nothing but screws, a bit of plaster and a several dust bunnies.
As I worked in my bedroom, I was disppointed when I found no notes behind window casings or baseboards or mantles. But, the closet door held a secret staircase to the attic. I had always had an adventurous spirit, and this was going to be fun.
If there was an old abandoned building on the side of the road, I would stop and wander through, although with a little trepidation and the fear of possibly being arrested for trespassing, I once found an old yellow Tupperware bowl, complete with lid, and I still have it.
I wondered what secrets lay hidden in the attic. Maybe another Tupperware bowl, or maybe nothing, but I was ready to play Sherlock Holmes.
To be continued_________________________________