Short Story

Music Box

Mom’s death was very sudden. Too sudden to feel real. I still can’t believe she is gone. Until I got married, Mom was my entire world. And now I have to clean her house. Sort out what to keep and what to let go. How do I do that? Clean out a lifetime of memories.

I was glad my husband was helping me out with this task. I always resented that he was not more romantic or showed his emotions. But right now I am glad he was holding me together.

He classified everything going from room to room. All the photographs will go with us. That one was a no brainer. He helped me pick out the dresses I wanted to hold on to. Mom’s wedding dress is among them. I didn’t care about the household items. I left my husband to deal with them. He insisted that I go through Mom’s things in her bedroom and decide what to do with them.

There were some letters she had kept. Some family heirlooms. Some random nick-knacks. I kept going through each item carefully. Some of these things I will see for the last time. Some I will cherish forever.

At the very back of her wardrobe, there was a Music Box. I had never seen this box before yet it was not a recent acquisition. It was old. The wood had scratches and dust accumulated in the grooves. Yet it felt loved and not neglected. Like Mom used to hold it often. At least that’s what I wanted to imagine.

I opened the lid expecting to hear some melody. But no sound came. There was a dancing ballerina figurine but it did not move. I tried to find a key or some lever to make it work. The only thing that happened what that the entire panel containing the ballerina came apart.

There were some letters inside the box. I sat on the bed before opening them. They were from my father. He wrote them from the war front before he died. I never met my father but Mom would keep telling me about him. She even showed me all the love letters they wrote to each other before they got married. But she never showed me these.

Mom was pregnant with me when he was sent to the war front. He was making this Music Box but had to leave before he could finish it. In the letters he sent from the war front, he wrote detailed instructions for my mother to follow and finish the Music Box.

Looking at the instructions and the Music Box, it looked like she followed every instruction. There were seven letters. Each letter was soaked in love. Each letter had some instructions. He never sent more than a few steps at a time.

Letters stopped a few months before I was born. That was when Mom would have received the word about his death. The Music Box was not complete. My father left for war before he could finish it himself and he died before he could tell my mother how to do the rest.

For several decades my mother held on to this last gift from her husband. It didn’t matter to her that it was not complete. It was something that they both shared. Maybe that’s why she never showed me this. She wanted to keep one piece just for herself.

That’s how my husband found me. Sitting on my mother’s bed surrounded by old letters and holding an incomplete Music Box. He managed to calm me down and bring me home.

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