On November 26, 1922, Howard Carter and Lord Caernavon opened the tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy king of Egypt. Howard Carter held a candle up to a small crack he made in the door. In response to this sudden illumination, 3,000 year-old gold glittered its greeting while long, lithe likenesses of animals stared back, dispassionately, with ebony eyes. This cache of ancient treasure left its discoverers and the Western world breathless. Dazzling the imagination with images of wealth: bright, decadent, and exotic.
And at 5:30 p.m. every weekday, until I turned ten, I helped Howard Carter and Lord Caernavon open the tomb again.
Getting teased on the morning bus and eating a somewhat soggy peanut butter sandwich for lunch didn’t seem to matter now.
Dad at the office, Mom in the kitchen, my brother in his room—I was alone, happy to keep the company of my thoughts. Opening the bottom cupboard of my bookcase, where I kept my favorite books, I pulled out an ink-colored paperback: Tut’s Mummy Lost…and Found. It was a little above my reading level—the sentences were long and winding, easy for a second grader to understand, but still too labyrinthine for a first grader. But I didn’t care. It wasn’t the book’s words that enthralled me, it was the pictures.
Sitting cross-legged on my family’s living room floor, I turned the pages until I found the picture that I wanted: the illustrator’s interpretation of what Carter saw. Getting teased on the morning bus and eating a somewhat soggy peanut butter sandwich for lunch didn’t seem to matter now. I had discovered something! With Carter and Caernavon by my side, we stood in an ancient ante chamber, lined with three golden couches, sleek and animalistic. Chests and statues, stunningly be-jeweled, were piled from floor to ceiling. Delicate flower wreaths, a brittle witness to our wonder, sprawled across the hoard—untouched, since the day of Tutankhamen’s funeral. I no longer sat in the living room. I sat on the floor of a desert tomb, each sand crystal glistening quietly in the glow of Carter’s candlelight. While a perfume, definitely floral, but drier than the smell of a spring hyacinth and muskier than the smell of a cluster of summer honeysuckle, seeped into my nose.
“SARAH! Come now or your dinner will get cold.”
Dad was home, calling me away from my thoughts and into the kitchen. The multitudinous grains of dessert sand lost their crystalline edges and softened back into the small, fuzzy bulbs of Berber that carpeted my family’s living room floor. Slowly, I stood up, turning off the living room light. I slipped Tut’s Mummy Lost…and Found back into the cupboard. King Tutankhamen’s tomb was closed, once more sealed up in the darkness of time.
Until 5:30 tomorrow.