I came upon it unexpectedly. Grandmother had passed away and after everyone had sorted through all her stuff and grabbed anything that seemed to have value - her ruby earrings, the grandfather clock in the hall, the silver candlesticks, the bone china, all the good stuff. I was left with the rest. That was part of Grandmother’s will. I was to let them take everything that anyone else in the family wanted. Pleasantly, joyfully, she hadn’t specified that it was to be that way but I was certain that was what she wanted. So that was what I had done. I had smiled and helped them carry out boxes and baskets with all of her pretty things.
When they were done sorting through it all we were to return to the attorney’s office and they each had to sign a document claiming that they would have no further rights to her property, known or unknown. It had, at the time, seemed dismally unfair. After all the only thing left were her old clothes, the house, leaky roof, creaky floor and all the many repairs it would need, Tabitha, her cat and boxes of old lover letters, old photos and what-nots and some not so pretty knick knacks. Essentially they had cleaned her out and left me with what seemed to be a mess.
That’s what we did. There was no question about other property or holdings and such. Grandmother had lived in that particular house for the last 45 years, 22 of them alone after my grandfather had died. There were no secrets. Things were pretty much the same day after day. Everyone knew all about the hard lives they had lived out in the country after moving to America from Europe. They had come over with my grandfather’s four brothers and their wives and children. They had moved to Minnesota first but after a few years decided it was too cold. They had struck out on their own and moved south to East Texas.
They had bought some land and built a little house and raised four brothers, along with various farm animals including but not limited to goats, chicken, cows, an occasional pig and from time to time a turkey or goose depending on what Grandmother thought she might like for Christmas dinner.
I was the only granddaughter and my grandmother had doted on me. She would let me cook with her and run errands with her. I would spend the night at least once a week even in my late teens. When I was very young she would stay in my bed until I was fast asleep whispering songs I didn’t understand and telling me stories of countries and castles far away.
My grandfather had died when I was seven. I didn’t really have many memories of him. He was always working around the land when I was there. I remember seeing him only a few times without a long sleeved cotton shirt on and was amazed to see how strong and muscular his arms were. He had sky blue eyes that always sparkled when my grandmother was near. I remember coming down the stairs for breakfast one morning, I could hear them laughing and when I turned the corner they were dancing in the kitchen. He always called her La Contessa and she always called him Amore.
The attorney had asked me to remain after everyone left.
“I assume you have a passport?” He asked. I laughed because of course I did. Grandmother had insisted upon it.
“You should always have a current passport; you never know when you might be taking off into some exciting international adventure.” Her eyes always twinkled and she would smile grandly as if she was hiding some secret.
“Yes, yes I do.” I replied to my grandmother’s attorney
“Oh good. Here are your plane tickets. All your travel arrangements have been made. You will be leaving for Switzerland in two weeks. That should give you plenty of time to take care of anything you need to take care of here. Any questions?” He looked at me as if what he had just said was the most natural thing in the world. Any questions?
“Yes, Yes I do.” I know I just said that but the answer was the same. I do have a passport and now all of a sudden I’ve got a heck of a lot of questions. “I don’t think I understand. Why am I going to Switzerland? And how long will I be gone? And what is this all about? And I’m sorry do you have perhaps a bit more information you can share besides the day the plane is leaving?” Starting to talk quite a bit faster than normal, I do that when I get nervous.
“Well, you are going to Switzerland because your grandmother has requested that you go there to meet with a banker, an attorney and a certain clockmaker. I don’t know why, I only have limited information myself. From what I understand you will be gone a minimum of three weeks. You will be traveling from Switzerland to Vaduz, Lichtenstein by train. Once there I understand you are to meet with the curator at National Museum. You will present him with documentation you get in Switzerland. He will attend to whatever other appointments need to be made while you are there. After you are done there you are to proceed to The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. This very tiny country is located in and completely surrounded by Italy. Apparently you will find out who you are to meet there while you are either in Switzerland or Lichtenstein. And that my dear is all the information I possess.” He paused. “Oh and I’m to give you this.” He handed me an envelope from a bank in Dallas. “I believe you will find sufficient funds to take you on your journey.”
I walked out into the always too bright Texas sunshine but I was dazed not from the sun but from everything I’d just heard in the attorney’s office. He had asked that I come in and see him upon my return to we could attend to whatever other matters needed to attending to.
Luckily thing I had my passport so I could set out on my exciting international adventure!