Yesterday afternoon I was staring at the dust at the back of the top drawer in my desk, envisioning a Lilliputian astronaut plodding over the surface and kicking up clouds of powder, when I noticed my oldest personal treasure hiding in a corner. It’s a little black pillow about three inches square and one inch thick. The bright yellow graphic on one face shows a Native American woman and a sprig of balsam with the words Queen of the Pines.
Attached is a short string and a four-by-two inch card tag. If you’re old enough to remember laundry tags, you’ll know what I mean. On one side of the tag near the top is printed ‘Balsam Pillow “From the Heart of the Fir Balsams”‘. In the middle is printed ‘From’ and written in faded ink ‘Sis’. The bottom line reads ‘Mfd. by C.H. Pingree, North Conway, N.H.’
On the reverse is printed ‘Greetings’ and the word ‘To’ followed by my sister’s handwritten ‘Roger Wm. Brown Stelton, N.J.’ There is a purple 3¢ George Washington stamp glued with its top at 270°. Over that is a circular postmark ‘July 1, 1947 1 p.m. N.J.’ I am sure that the word ‘Lakewood’ is missing at the top.
Over the more than 63 years that I have kept this treasured gift from my sister Sally, the sweet aroma of balsam needles has faded. Perhaps that is symbolic of her love for me which has also faded. I have tried to restore the scent of this pillow by freezing it and exposing it to wind. Last night, I even dampened it with water and hung it on the line overnight and part of this morning to dry. Still, there is only the memory when I place it to my nose and inhale deeply. Perhaps that too is symbolic of the stubbornness of my people, my family, my one and only sister.
You have a loving brother and you’ll never have another.