Thursday, March 20, 2014

Priceless Heirlooms

Some families have valuable heirloom pieces of furniture, or historical artifacts, or antique jewelry that has been passed down from generation to generation. Mine…doesn’t. I do have a beautiful wooden cradle that my grandfather made for me when I was 4 or 5 that I intend to pass down to my daughter soon, and my grandmother gave me a lovely sewing table she’d had for years when she moved to a smaller apartment. But nothing of large innate value, and nothing that has been in the family for a hundred years. Nothing that fits the specific definition of an heirloom.

That doesn’t make any of those pieces less valuable to me, though. Along with that cradle I will pass along memories of my grandfather and my father, both skilled woodworkers and craftsmen who made me and my sister many creative toys over the years, including a pair of stilts and a pair of “Romper Stompers” (which were essentially upside-down buckets that you held on your feet with rope reins while you clomped around). With the sewing table, I will pass along memories of my grandmothers’ and my mother’s skill with a needle, sewing and knitting and quilting and embroidery. The items themselves don’t have a lot of value, but their worth as a reminder of important family history and memories is beyond measure.


So this morning, when my daughter requested a tea party, instead of giving her the usual plastic dinosaur cup, I decided it was time to do a “proper” tea party, and I pulled out my grandmother’s silver christening mug. 


The top edge of the mug is ringed with a wreath of embossed roses, and underneath, in beautiful, elegant script, is her name, “Ruth Elizabeth Dunbrack,” and her date of birth, Feb. 9, ’07. More than one hundred years ago, someone – I don’t know exactly who, but I suspect a great-aunt or great-uncle – picked out this gift for her and had it personalized. It's lovely and special, but not especially expensive. But the fact that her parents kept it throughout her childhood and passed it down to her, and she passed it down to her oldest daughter, is proof that they all considered it valuable.

My tea party with my daughter brought back distinct memories of having tea parties with MY mother, using that very same mug. And I have no doubt that those tea parties brought back HER memories of tea parties with HER mother and that mug. And perhaps someday my daughter will have a tea party with HER daughter and will recall memories of this very morning’s tea party with me.

That mug might not be priceless, but what it represents sure is: love and family. Two things that are definitely beyond price.



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