I do have a few items from my parents as does Snake. Most of them are pieces of furniture that have been passed down from our grandparents through our own parents. They are important because they were important to family members.
I’m sure the furniture is probably valuable to some degree, but we were both raised that the items were to be used. In fact, the loveseat in the photo has been in a few photos on the site. The others are scattered around the house, but all are being used.
My mom passed a couple of serving plates to me that she had always used. I didn’t even know they were antiques until my great aunt was there one time and had a fit that my mother was serving meatloaf off one of them. Both of them were used regularly and just dishes like any other dish. We didn’t live a fussy life of china and regular plates. Everything was used.
But, I don’t really think of these things as family heirlooms. Yes, they are from family members and to someone else they might be, but to me, family heirlooms are memories.
From my maternal grandmother, I got my lack of height and a lot of feistiness. She was a 4’10” dynamo and the sweetest person in the world. Everyone meant well. Of course, she also was the owner of the property where they lived and never let my grandfather forget that when he wanted to make changes that she didn’t like.
From my maternal grandfather, I got a can-do attitude and a great deal of stubbornness. He never made it past the third grade and yet read the newspaper cover to cover every day without exception. He also refused to get dentures or glasses so he gummed his food to death and read the newspaper with a magnifying glass.
From my paternal grandmother, I got a desire to improve. She grew up as one of six children who were first generation Americans. Both of her parents came from Poland and her mother never really learned to speak English. My grandmother learned to sew and proudly became a member of the union at the shop where she worked. They moved from the slums to a house in the suburbs between the time my father was born and the time he left the Air Force.
From my paternal grandfather, I learned that strength isn’t necessarily being tough and cold. He lost his mother early, helped raise his siblings from his father’s second marriage and had 4 children with my grandmother. He was drafted when he had the 4 children and he served in the Army and was injured. He came home to work for the local newspaper. But I will always remember how he treated my grandmother like she was a precious gift. She was his sweetheart until he died.
From my mom, I learned to keep going and that I could be strong. She had a rough first marriage that I’ve written about, but she kept going. She raised two boys on her own until she married my father. She worked hard and loved her family unconditionally through a lot of stressful times.
From my father, I learned that I was smart. He never was too busy to help or to encourage. And he always told me that I could do anything that I put my mind to doing. Being female was never a deterrent and he made sure that I got to do things that I wanted to do. He also inspired my love of travel.
All of these people and my various aunts and uncles and cousins each gave me important memories. They gave me a history to build on and pass on. These are the real family heirlooms.
Our most treasured family heirloom are our sweet family memories. The past is never dead, it is not even past.William Faulkner