The Antique Nutcracker

You know how you convince yourself of something? That it is nothing… That it is just an active imagination? That is what we did.

Photo Myron Ropp

Photo Myron Ropp

I do not recall who purchased him. I think my wife picked him up at an after Christmas Sale. My wife thought we had bought him at an Octoberfest celebration. I suppose it doesn’t matter. The point is… we actually brought him into our home: a simple, yet very nicely done, antique nutcracker. They all basically look the same: little cute, little creepy and always with that toothy grin. The incidents started four years ago, in our new house. The house is not newly constructed… just new to us.

We have a fireplace you see. We finally had a place to display our wooden friend. We started displaying him… during this blessed season. First couple of years were pretty mild: little noises, like you would describe a squirrel. Scurrying sounds, like toenails on a hardwood floor. We would hear them: fast paced scurrying, almost like ‘running’ if you would have to describe it. I knew it could not be squirrels or other critters in the attic. These were just too audible, to distinct, very near.

You know how you convince yourself of something? That it is nothing … that It is just an active imagination? That is what we did. Two years ago is when we started missing things: car keys, change from my pocket, even my wife’s rosary. They would always be found upon the mantle, always beside our grinning friend. Perhaps we set them there, stoking a fire. Arriving in from work, perhaps was how we explained it to one another. Last year was the worse: more noise, more missing items. Then the soft whimpering, like crying that was trying to be subdued, hushed, so no one would take notice. Last year, after the Holidays, was when Mr. Gruber knocked on our door.

Photo Myron Ropp

Photo Myron Ropp

Mr. Gruber had tracked us down from a card receipt. The receipt used to purchase our nutcracker. He introduced himself and was invited in. Sitting in our living room, he unfolded this tale. He was a seventh generation toymaker. His family had also specialized in nutcrackers, ornamental, holiday. In going through an old truck of his 3rd Great Grandfather’s. He found a journal/diary. Mr. Gruber reached out his hand. In it was a xeroxed copy of an old document, written in German. Stapled to it was a typed, English translation of that photocopied page.

December 14, 1837
Heaven have mercy on our souls. Due to the fire that destroyed our surrounding forest, we have no wood with which to craft our toys or nutcrackers. There is but the wood that forms our dwellings, and the wood that is buried in the ground. Today we dug up the coffin of Heinrich Muller, a mischievous lad that fell to his death during an ill-fated prank. My uncle and I removed him from his coffin. We even stripped him of his white ermine collared and cuffed jacket before we reburied him back into the ground. His time had come and past. This wood will feed my wife and three small children. I am very ashamed of these events, but I did mark the foot piece of the nutcrackers that have been made with the coffin and coat.
Marked with H. M.

I left my wife and Mr. Gruber in the living room, as I went to the attic to retrieve him. I had always wondered what the H. M. meant. I found the storage container easily. It is marked. I opened the box in partial dread, part in sheer terror. The nutcracker was not there, only the packing wrappings loosely scattered inside the box. That was when I heard the scream, and even though I was up in the attic, the distinct sound of scurrying footfall could be heard.

Photo Myron Ropp

Photo Myron Ropp

I know what I heard. As sure as I know my name and those of my parents. I heard a scream… And the distinct sound of scurried running or scooting. Needless to say, I set a new record time for attic ladder descent. I have went from attic to ground floor faster though, when I fell through the living room drywall ceiling, much faster. But that is another story.

Running into the living room, there stood Mr. Gruber. To say that he looked like he had seen a ghost would be an understatement, he had. He was staring at the hearth of the fireplace. My wife was slouched over onto the arm of the sofa, she had passed out. Running to her and kneeling before her to check, Mr. Gruber whispered, “She is fine”. I looked up at him and asked, “The scream. Who screamed?” Eyes still on the hearth he actually smiled and said, “Heinrich”.

There, laying face down on the hearth, was the nutcracker. The scrawled H. M. clearly visible on the underside of its base. Mr. Gruber put his hand upon my shoulder and spoke, “Myron, do you remember the sound your own children made when they went down the slide at the park? That gleeful, excited shrill that only comes from a child that is at blissful play? That was what you heard, a rapturous and audible outpouring of release. The little boy was finally being heard, noticed, acknowledged. His pranks of taking things and even his tender weeping have been brought to light. As soon as you went up to get him, he appeared there by the wall. Although he never opened the toothy jaws of the nutcracker mechanism, the scream came from him. That seems insane to suggest, but the sound came from the nutcracker. Afterwhich, by some unknown force, it scooted across the floor and in hitting the hearth, was flung up on it, as you see it now. I cannot explain what I have witnessed here today. This is beyond logic and comprehension. I do know this. The mischievous little boy, Heinrich Muller, that was always yearning for attention, who was denied his rightful place of eternal rest in such a degrading manner, has at last… found peace, for he has been heard.”

Photo Myron Ropp

Photo Myron Ropp

My wife is fine. She had a headache for several days. She is just now getting comfortable talking about it. Mr. Gruber handled everything, he took the nutcracker with him. Two days later, he called me from Göppingen, Germany. Although he could not locate the original grave of Heinrich, he did purchase a plot, a memorial headstone and a small ornate child’s coffin. Inside it, he placed the nutcracker. The nutcracker made from the little boy’s coffin and ermine stitched coat. He laid them all… To rest.

2 Responses to “The Antique Nutcracker”

  1. Luca Babini says:

    Great Myron

    • Myron says:

      Thank you Luca. I greatly appreciate that … and for the opportunity you and CBK have extended to me.

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