Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Red Plaid Suitcase, Memories from my childhood.

As a child, my parents had wonderful friends, that I came to know as Auntie and Uncle. We'd spend many hours together....dining, sharing Holidays, consuming many cups of coffee around a smoldering fireplace...and always surrounded in laughter and love. As the youngest child amongst the growing group of family friends, I often would retreat to Auntie Phyl's breakfast nook, a delightfully warm room of knotty pine walls, large windows trimmed in Priscilla curtains and the constant smell of fresh brewed coffee. The adults always sat in the kitchen and I would climb from lap to lap intrigued with Uncle Ralph's salty pipe smoke, Auntie Phyl's laughter and the gentle way I felt like one of their own. But when my boney knees grew to be annoying, I was directed to a lower cupboard door that held a magical case....There I found the Red Plaid Suitcase.
I welcomed the red plaid suitcase as it was filled with wonderous treasures. Captivating books took me on simple adventures. Well loved teddy bears with faded bow ties still managed to return the love and crayons, jacks and rubber bouncing balls, all filled endless hours of time well spent in Phyl and Ralph's kitchen. The case itself seemed heavy and large but new upon every visit. The shiny latch would snap open and the red plaid gave way to it's interior of faded khaki and cream gingham. I loved that little suitcase and toted it around like it was my own.
With a blink of my eye, I found myself as a young adult and the cupboard that held the red plaid suitcase passed into a memory , unvisited dark and quiet. Time marched on...families grew up...married, started families of their own, and the realities of my childhood grew dusty and distant, like the cupboard that held the red plaid suitcase.
Several weeks ago, I heard the sad news that Auntie Phyllis had suddenly passed away. Silently my heart broke. As my family began to remember her, wonderful memories refreshed my heart as we gathered to celebrate her life and the rich memories once again became clear. Years have past since I last saw the red plaid suitcase but today, I became a child again.
Karen, one of Auntie Phyl's grand children came by for a brief visit to my shop in downtown Edmonds. I was pleased to see her but upon a second glance I could see she was carrying the suitcase. Reaching out to me she said, "We want you to have this..." There it was....the red plaid suitcase...and in that moment I was 5 years old again. The case seemed smaller and lighter then I remembered. The toys inside the suitcase were absent and had given way to generations of love. The latch, now rusting with age still sprang open as I held and breathed in this fond memory.
Today, while I am writing, the tears flow a little less, and the heart strings are being tugged, but I am grateful the child is alive in me today. The suitcase will find a special place in my studio where I create, write and dream. Even now, some 45 years later , when I see the red plaid suitcase, I can feel the legacy Auntie Phyllis left behind, and in a funny little way, I can smell the coffee brewing, hear the crackling fire and I am surrounded in laughter and love.
To Auntie Phyllis..... I love you!


  1. This is why we love you...if everyone could have an Auntie Phyl. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow...sitting here drinking a lovely glass of Sangiovese and reading Domino: The Book of Decorating...grabbed my smartphone to look up a decorating web site mentioned in the book but noticed your post...what a lovely, well written piece! So glad you took the time to share, Todd. Never had the pleasure of meeting Auntie Phyl but she'll be in my prayers tonight, as will he friends & family.

  3. First time visiting your blog and my tears are over flowing.... Thank you and I so look forward to reading more posts. xo Judy

  4. Leave it to you.....
    Late night, it's Friday and Dads away, Nestled in my bed is my son he shall stay,
    It's time for a story, No need for a book, He now knows the man behind the pennants in his nook.
    Sweet dreams. XoXo

  5. Todd, this story brought tears to my eyes... I also grew up with family friends who were my 'adopted' Aunt and Uncle - and her name was also Phyl.

    As I read your words, I imagined the special things about MY Aunt Phyl's home (a farm in Northern California) her donkey Pedro and her crazy poodle Jacques, her teenage daughter's old Barbie dolls that I played with. But it is her voice, rough and deep in tone with a constant lilt, that echoes in my memory.

    Thank you for helping me to remember MY childhood by sharing YOURS... and hugs to you all on the loss of such a dear friend. <3

  6. Great!Childhood memories are always precious. After reading your blog my eyes get wet with tears because its remains my childhood days. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Amazing!Childhood memories are always special. Your article reminds me the golden memories of my child hood life. Keep sharing such things!

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