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Posts Tagged ‘heirlooms’

Yesterday, we hustled this beast of a piano into a rental truck for a short trip across town to one half of The Owl Sisters, two Huntsville ladies who refinish old furniture. After they remove its incredibly heavy harp, one Owl Sister will move the piano (which will really be a former piano at that point) into her home, where she’ll probably turn it into a bar. Or, possibly, something even cooler.

I’ve learned that old pianos are essentially worthless unless they’ve been completely reconditioned, a process that can cost just a thousand dollars or two less than the newly reconditioned piano’s value. I’m not taking that wager.

In the past, I’ve called this the accidental piano. When I was helping my dad clean out his mother’s house, it seemed like a good idea to take it home, not because I had fond memories of it (or even played piano), but because I had always thought it was a groovy piece of furniture. I had no idea that nearly 10 years in Mobile’s humidity would render its delicate wheels virtually useless.

For me, it has held family photos and knickknacks, along with whatever objects happened to be attracted to a flat surface at any given moment. I will miss its unique addition to the general decor, but I won’t miss moving it to another house or worrying about it scratching/denting the new floor when we get around to ditching the carpet.

Au revoir, beastly piano. Enjoy your third life.

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This is the last Wrangler jacket that my grandfather ever wore. (He bought a new one every year or two since, as you can see, he wore the threads off of them.) It was really the only thing I wanted after he died.

I have trouble picturing him in my head without a threadbare blue jacket.

Although he obviously took it off every once in a while.

It makes me happy to see it hanging in the closet. It makes me happier to slip it on, noting that it’s too big for me, but not THAT big, and sort of regretting that it’s so squeaky clean. (Historically, the blue denim jacket had any number of stains on it, mostly consisting of, but not necessarily limited to, mud and tractor grease.)

I think I love this jacket so much because it holds absolutely no value for most other people. It’s torn and faded, and offers little protection against the cold.

It offers nothing but memories.

Don’t let other people choose your heirlooms for you. You may be surprised how much the most ridiculous things will mean to you in the long run.

The lesson from my previous post was that you don’t necessarily have to hold on to things to hold on to memories. A refinement to that lesson: The fewer things from the past you hold on to, the more accessible memories will be.

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My little green bowls make me smile. Fill them with salsa verde from Trader Joe’s and I’m positively ecstatic.

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During the last few years of her life, my grandmother would open the china cabinet each time I visited and make me choose something to bring home with me. She always seemed amused when I chose small, weathered items over intricate crystal and silver.

This glass measuring cup made it home with me a few years ago. It’s got clear engraved markings and three pouring spouts.

I certainly did not need another measuring cup, but it’s got character. And judging by my husband, friends and decor, I LOVE character.

It’s been holding my inexplicable collection of dried cherry pits for the past four years. (Hint: Don’t ask.)

I recently had overnight guests, and both adults were coffee drinkers who took real sugar AND cream, thus giving me the opportunity to set out the sugar dish that totally matches my plates. I did not, alas, have a creamer container. (For that matter, I did not have any creamer, but there’s no reason I can’t serve my 2-percent milk all fancy.)

I did, however, have a charming little glass measuring cup. Voila. It was finally pressed into service for something besides pit storage.

Best of all, I now know why I brought it home.

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I had a total “ah-ha” moment this weekend. (OK, “ah-ha” wasn’t the phrase running through my head when the moment occurred, but let’s keep this family-friendly.)

My mom was showing me a vase that she had gotten from my grandmother’s house. It had belonged to my grandmother’s sister (or sister-in-law, maybe) and had been in my grandmother’s possession for decades after the original owner’s death. I had never seen this vase before, and it struck me as meh, valuable or not. I told my mom I wasn’t interested in it, and she was good with that — she’s learned the freedom of owning less stuff over the years, and respects my right to reject heirlooms.

The thought that ran through my head during the interchange, however, was, “Your treasure is not my treasure.” The thought wasn’t really aimed at my mom, since she’s not one to try to convince me to take things that I don’t want or need. I think it was aimed at the whole mindset people have that there are certain items that MUST be passed from generation to generation for eternity.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pass things down or treasure things from long ago. But we can’t keep everything.

It’s not a personal affront if I don’t want your collection of glass cake plates; it’s just that my favorite cake plate happens to be a weathered old aluminum model with more character than elegance. (Autobiographical cake plate FTW.)

Back to the vase in question: I had never seen it before. Meaning that my grandmother kept it, but didn’t treasure it enough to display it. Therefore, I have no memories associated with this vase. It’s simply an object that I don’t find that attractive. I feel no urge to take it home simply because it belonged to someone I’m related to.

I have plenty of things from my grandparents’ home that mean A LOT to me. A collapsible aluminum cup that my grandfather brought back from World War II. A pair of funky cat bookends from the middle bedroom. An old, golden glass piggy bank that my brother and I spent dozens of hours playing with, poking coins in and then shaking them out.

These things are my treasures.

There are people who would have their children fill their closets and attics with heirlooms, simply to keep those items “in the family.” Don’t do that. Let your children choose their treasures. To facilitate that, choose YOUR treasures. The things you value, not the things you stuff into the attic and the basement, will be the things they actually want later.

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