Slice of Life: Forgotten Treasures


When my grandmother went to live in a nursing home, we were faced with the daunting task of emptying the house she’d lived in for over sixty years. Our work was rewarded, though, with countless forgotten treasures, including this:


The back of this box is stamped with the logo to the Kibbe Bros. Co., Springfield, Mass. and is inscribed to my grandmother, from Pat J. Lillis, Christmas, 1919. I wasn’t surprised to find an old candy box among my grandmother’s things. She saved everything. But I wasn’t prepared for the treasure that lay inside the box. Inside were hundreds of paper dolls and women modeling dress patterns cut from magazines. Because they’d been hidden away from both my mother and her sister and my cousins and me, they were in perfect condition. 

My grandmother wrote "Loretta Lane, age 14" on the back of this doll.
My grandmother wrote “Loretta Lane, age 14” on the back of this doll.

Everything was cut precisely, including characters from nursery rhymes and Alice in Wonderland. There was even small brown envelope filled with just hats. Most of the dolls, which included girls, women, and boys, were given names and ages and are all part of a large family.

All that remains of "The Three Bears"
All that remains of “The Three Bears.” Don’t you love the look on the bear’s face?

When we asked my grandmother about them, she said she and her younger sister had cut them out and played with them for hours. This is how I imagine them:

Dust motes dance in light
streaming through windows
so old the glass
ripples and flows.

Bathed in this golden sunshine,
a nook beneath the stairs
becomes a refuge from collecting eggs,
fetching cows from the far pasture.

Two heads lean together,
brown hair woven into tight braids,
bowed in concentration,
imaginations running wild.

Four hands snip and cut,
a family of paper dolls grows.
Names bestowed,
adventures dreamed,
lives created out of thin air.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

 Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

15 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Forgotten Treasures

  1. Wow! What a wonderful experience to write about. Just the fact that you now have this archived in a blog post is going to be a wonderful memory. So many treasures!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a dear treasure! I hope you can do something to preserve them. I can’t believe they skipped over 2 generations before being found. Your poem captures a memory of creativity before there were TV shows and video games, or even Barbies. Lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love those old treasures found, Catherine. I played with paper dolls too, but not quite that exquisite. I have an envelope of old Valentines from Arvie’s mother that I treasure. I think we’re blessed that those things were saved, why I love to go antiquing, seeing the art from long ago. That you wrote a poem for these is wonderful, those brown heads in tight braids leaning together under the stairs brings such a poignant picture in my mind. The old houses with those “under the stairs” places were so special. One of my grandmother’s upstairs hallway was so big that it became a play space for us, something I remember. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So wonderful!

    When I saw the snippet in the comments on today’s SOL main post, I somehow added the word “refrigerator”–as in, what you found when cleaning out your grandmother’s refrigerator! This is probably a much sweeter post than that would have been.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that you’re weaving poetry into so many of your slices! What a treasure it was, indeed, to find these paper dolls! Your imagining of your grandmother is perfect! Mom and I spent many happy hours cutting and playing with paper dolls…


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