The ancient woman leaned forward. Her glasses, the lenses smeary with fingerprints, slid further down her nose and perched there, crookedly. Spidery straggles of hair that failed to be caught up in the long, once red braid floated free. The chair strained with her shifting weight, its wooden arms smooth with wear. Her grandchildren had, at her bequest, attached rockers to the legs. She had wanted a rocker, but would sit in no seat but the old maroon canvas chair. Her lips moved, as if she were reciting some long ago creed, a prayer, a poem. Her eyes fixed on the shelf to her right, cluttered with many objects, some familiar, some curious...all dusty. A post-it note, its stickum having long ago worn off, was taped, and retaped to the front of the third shelf. Curled up, and crusted with yellowing cellophane tape, the penciled words, "KidsPlay Props Hall of Fame" were barely legible. Her watery blue eyes took in the words, and then seemed to move over each object, taking it in, processing the vision, the memory.
The children timidly moved forward. To them, the shelf was an eye-candy treasure trove. They knew that everything present had purpose, meaning, and a story behind it. Anthony stood back, but pointed. "What is that, up there on the top?"
The old woman leaned her head back, and squinted, looking over the top of her glasses. "That?" she croaked, "that's a sword. Your mama carried that on stage.... She was a sight to behold in the most expensive costume ever made...."
Lucy, ever the bravest of the three, approached the shelf and picked up something that must have once been some kind of food. She grimaced and put it back down. "Gross!" she said. "Why do you have THAT?"
"Young lady, I'll ask you to respect an old woman's memories. That, if you must know, is one of Moo Goo Gai Pan's fortune cookies. We sold them at the concession stand. It still has a sticker on it, but you can't read it anymore." She leaned back in the chair and smugly continued. "And if you want to know more than that, you'll have to ask your mama!"
"What about me? What about my dad?" asked Li'l J. The old woman smiled. "That whole shelf is full of stuff from YOUR dad's days on stage." She was silent again, looking at the collection, measuring each memento in years and laughs.
"What about this?" asked Li'l J. "I don't remember you ever talking about a space play." He carefully picked up the dusty space craft. "It's broken!" he exclaimed. "It's only half here." And then, his nose wrinkled, as something fell from it. "Ew! Why is there a bra hanging from it???"
The old woman face crinkled in yet another smile as she took the rocket from him, stuffed the undergarment back inside, and placed it back on the shelf. "You had to be there, boy. You had to be there."