I often wonder why more documents and photographs aren’t passed down in families. After I received that beautiful scrapbook that belonged to the Culver sisters (you can read about it here), I realized that sometimes it is because branches of families die out. There is nobody left who cares about the history of the family.
But what happens in so many other families? Sometimes someone moves and loses a box of photographs. Or they pass away and leave documents in the care of a descendant who hates “stuff” and throws it away.
Sometimes, though, it is in the hands of nature. A tornado, hurricane, fire, or flood carries away these valuable family treasures. I’ve tried to protect as much as possible against these possibilities. A fire safe and a supply of acid-free envelopes and boxes helps with that.
Nevertheless, I had a little taste of the damage that can occur from nature the other day. Well, maybe not nature–more like repairman error.
Last spring I walked around the corner of the house and heard a raging fountain. Water poured into the hall, on my beautiful alder wood floor. Our hot water heater had burst. We discovered that the repairman had set it down, covering the drain, so the water had nowhere to go but out into my house. Ultimately the entire large-sized heater contents poured into my house, flooding the hall and downstairs bedrooms. The only reason it didn’t get into the living room is that the hallway and bedrooms are three steps lower than the living room.
We got help cleaning up the mess, and because we live in Arizona, where it is dry, everything seemed fine.
Until Tuesday that is.
I keep a plastic mat in the walk-in closet where I store my scrapbooks, books, and old writing. That’s because, to make more room, I have a library cart full of books and need to be able to move it from in front of the file cabinet. Because it’s so weighted down with books, it sinks into the carpet and needs a mat to roll on. I keep another plastic mat under my desk for my chair. Well, what I didn’t know was that although the carpet was dry, the slab (no basement in Arizona) had absorbed moisture from the flood. So when I put the plastic mats down, over these ten months, moisture collected underneath. The carpet developed rust spots. And at the edge of the closet mat, on the wall hidden behind the file cabinet, black mold developed. It didn’t grow on my wall or in the carpet, but on the baseboard and on the scrapbook I had leaning between the cabinet and the wall. You see, that scrapbook was not a treasured heirloom, but something that belonged to me.
It was from 1989 and 1990, when I graduated from grad school (Western Michigan University). Because I have an iPhone and a camera, I was able to take photographs of the “treasures” in the scrapbook and throw them away. But years ago, that would have been very unlikely. Film was expensive and everyone didn’t have a camera.
In the following photo you can see the black mold a bit better. It is a flyer advertising subscriptions to a literary magazine. The flyer featured a poem by yours truly, as well as one by another poet. Look at the mold! I was wearing latex gloves to handle it.
Years ago, my mother-in-law’s basement flooded. She had a wonderful collection of antiques and childhood keepsakes that belonged to her and some to my husband. All gone in a flash. Every once in a while my husband remembers something else that was in the basement and is lost forever.