I have recently read a book of short essays called The Secret Life of Objects by Dawn Raffel. The author reflects on objects around her home that have significance. These are things she inherited from her mother who recently passed away, that were given to her by her grandparents and that she has collected as an adult. She writes about her memories of the objects and what she was doing when she acquired them in various stages of her life. I have thought how marvelous that her children will have this book to refer to when going they are going through her belongings when she dies.
Why do we hold on to certain objects and what memories to they possess? As we all attempt to declutter our own houses and deal with aging/deceased parents, what is kept and what is given away? To know what was important to our loved ones and why, makes the decision so much easier. Would your children and descendants know what is important to you in your home and why you kept it? Shouldn’t we write it down?
I have started to look around my house and see what I have collected in my 50+ years and to think seriously about what I would want my children to save when I am gone. Of course there are the photos of ancestors and treasures that I have inherited from the great-grandparents via my grandmother and my mother. There are very few items, when you consider that I have 30 direct ancestors from the previous 4 generations, most who died less than a hundred years ago. I have said that I have come from ancestors that were “movers”, not “stayers” and with that comes a mentality of looking forward and not holding onto land, memories, stories or “things”. So, true “antiques” are at a minimum, but I am working on documenting each one and what I know about their history.
But what about the things from my generation? I have tried to be thoughtful about what I kept from my own life when I packed and moved across the country, already thinking about what my children would potentially need to deal with when I go. These are the things that aren’t necessarily old, but are attached to memories from my life. My children will be lucky in one way; I do not collect nick knacks and hate things that require dusting regularly. With that said, I hold on to the English Springer Spaniel statues that my grandmother brought back from at trip to England, because they remind me of her and seeing them on her fireplace mantel when I was growing up. They are next to the old books that she gave me, some we bought together at an antique bookstore in downtown Los Angeles and a few from my great-grandparents. (Dear children, if you are reading this…I promise to haunt you if you give away any of the old books on my shelves.)
Then there is one of my Dad’s Hawaiian shirts. When my dad died, my step mom had us all pick out one of his Hawaiian shirts to remember him by and to wear at his wake. When I see this Tommy Bahama shirt, I picture him in it, cooking fish stew or some new recipe he was trying out from the Food Channel. I cannot bear to part with it.
These serving spoons are a gift from my mother. She was glass artist and made jewelry among other crafty pursuits. She went through a period where she decorated serving utensils with glass beads and gave them as wedding and house warming gifts. I commissioned Mom to make numerous sets for me to give to give to friends who got married because they were beautiful and a way to support my mom’s business. I couldn’t seem to find a full set of mine when I was taking pictures. Wonder where they are?
This is my rocking chair from when I was a child. It was part of an all white bedroom set that included a dresser, a bed frame and a rocking chair. It is a miracle that I have this chair (I don’t have very much from my childhood, but that is another story). Somehow my Dad and my step-mom had it and she painted it dark brown. When I was married and started to have children, she sent it to me. At least that is what I think it is from….
So what objects do you keep and what would you want your children to hang on to? Perhaps it is time to start taking pictures of them and writing why they are important to you. Leave a little bit of yourself behind to remember.
I am not much of a pack rat – but I do get sentimental about stuff that is related to a particular time or person. I have a number of things of my grandmother’s and a year or so ago, I realized that when I go (or maybe even sooner given the state of my memory!) no one will know what they are or why they are significant. So, I took a day, put each piece on the table and took a picture of it. Then I made a small album of all the pictures, with notes and stories about where each item came from. I tucked the album into the china cabinet so that I can remind myself or others can know, the heritage of these pieces. It gives me peace of mind!
Good for you! You are ahead of me on that, but I am working on it.