Old Tin Box

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Old Tin Box

Memories in an old tin, by FWR

In my grandparents' front room stood an old sideboard. Bought new as a wedding present, but now sinking under the weight of fifty years of marriage, knickknacks and ornaments poking out, part-buried under piles of forgotten paperwork.

The middle draw was stiff to open, bottom bowed from the sheer amount of junk crammed into it. Knitting needles and patterns, side by side with photographs (so many photographs) and half-forgotten screwdrivers and pliers, broken lighters, and batteries of all shapes and sizes that probably no longer fit anything.

And a tin box. Red fading to silver, pattern rubbed away by decades of fingers.

The box!

As a child, the box was the highlight of that small room. I knew, once I'd wiggled the stiff draw from side to side, squeaking furiously (the runners and me!) as it edged open, the contents would be laid out on the arm of my grandad's chair. His fingers circling each item, deciding which story he'd retell that day.

Medals. War campaigns, first and second, family history on faded gaudy ribbons.

An old diver's watch, strapless, face glass cracked, but precious and vital to tales of warships and submarines.

Coins with strange King's heads, stranger writing, foreign travels of the ghosts of my family.

Sepia photographs, two young boys, not quite men, smoking, smiling, holding guns in a French field.

And the harmonica.

Tears in my grandfather's eyes as he played 'Oh My Darling Clementine' and 'She'll be Coming Round the Mountain'. Then older songs, songs of goodbyes and packing up your troubles.


Two older brothers, taken too soon, laid to rest in a foreign land, but kept alive in a few songs, and an old tin box.

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