The yellowed envelope was so old and brittle, it cracked between my fingers as I lifted it from behind the wall.
(this story is reprinted by request)
I was cleaning out the attic. We were fixing it up in preparation for the arrival of an au pair (but that’s another story ) when the envelope fell from a space under a rafter. My husband was about to nail up a wall that could have sealed that away for another 57 years.
Inside the crackly envelope was a four-page document, written up by an old manual typewriter on what we used to call “typewriter paper,” thin and easily erased. At the top, in all capitals:
IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN.
It was a man’s will, written in September, 1945, signed and dated, with three witnesses.
Also inside the envelope was a smaller one. On the outside it read:
The list, drawn up in 1949, was modest, but fascinating: “One Buick sedan 1939 model.” “Sole ownership of Dental Office situated at 103 East 125 Street, New York, 35, N.Y.” Some savings accounts and 5 tiny plots of land in “Bellport, L.I.” And, of course, the house I now own.
I knew nothing of this man or the people named in his will. They had lived here before the couple we bought the house from, and the people we bought the house from had lived here 40 years.
I looked the documents over a few more times over the next few days. Mostly, they made me sad. I tucked them into a book. That was four years ago.
Recently i was scrolling through that time-suck Facebook when I came across a Larchmont, New York facebook page …and was drawn to a discussion between a couple of (adult) people who used to play in a house on my street in the 1970s. I left a comment that I lived on that street and that friends of mine now live in the house they were talking about.
Then, someone left a comment for me: “Do you live in a stone house at number xx? I lived there from 1942-1963…”
She was very nice and we conversed. She lives in California. She told me that her father, Martin, died in 1965.
I realized that it was her father whose will had been hidden in my attic for 57 years. She was stunned.
Tomorrow I will send it to her. But it is I that am stunned at the convergence of time and technology.