Monday, July 14, 2008

Family history in trinkets

Boy, am I glad we stopped by my mom's on a whim last Friday night. As we sat and chatted, my mom gave Kelsey a bracelet that my dad had given my mom. My mom was never a bracelet person, and it always annoyed her that my dad couldn't keep that little nugget in his head. Anyway, it's a rather gawdy thing, but Kelsey was happy to get it. My mom suggested we look in her jewelry box for a matching necklace. I didn't find one, but as I walked back out her bedroom door, I noticed the garbage can was full to the top. I saw my grandfather's face and newspaper clippings and bits of frill tossed in with dirty kleenexes and deteriorating latex gloves. (I am so glad I haven't needed those gloves recently.)

I grabbed the garbage can and wandered back to the living room.

"Are you storing this stuff in here or throwing it away?" I asked, starting to pick through it all.

"No, I'm throwing it away," my mom answered.

Like hell.

I had a gas looking through all that stuff. I couldn't believe she would throw it away. (Well, I suppose I can, and I don't blame her, really, when I look at the stacks of accumulated stuff in my own house.) I salvaged my grandpa's business cards from Kodak. He worked there for 33 years. There was an ad for senior housing from a Winter Haven, Fla., newspaper in which he was the model. There was a little aluminum booky thing that he had made in 1918 when he was in the war. My mom figures it was a cigarette holder. There was a cigarette lighter with my mom's cousin's name on it. There was a bookmark her friends gave her when she retired and an engraving plate, never used, from my parents' wedding stationery.

I asked her what other things she had thrown away. She said nothing, she had only gone through one drawer, but she was sick of all this junk lying around. I told her I wanted anything that had someone's name on it if she didn't want it herself.

Those old trinkets mean something to me. They're a connection to the past. I don't have memories of her cousin Quin, and my kids didn't even know what my grandpa looked like. These people are part of me and part of the future.

Just the other day, a woman told me Kelsey looks just like me. She does. She also looks just like her Aunt Marcia and her Grandpa John and her great-great (I think) Aunt Nina. That face is living history. That face won't live forever, but little bibs and bobs will hang around long after we've all gone. It's sad in a way. But without a cigarette lighter from Traverse City, I probably never would have known about Quin or the fact that his sister still lives in Grand Rapids. I'd've looked her up the last time I was there if I'd known.

I still don't know anything about Quin other than he was always very nice to my mom and her sisters. But that's nice to know.

(I blurred out Doug's phone numbers because I didn't want people pestering my mom. Heh. I don't think he did the handyman thing very long.)

Detail of my grandpa's handicraft. He used to make jewelry, too. Oh – my mom said she probably shouldn't have thrown that out, but she couldn't see well enough to even know what it was.:


MJ Krech said...

What a great post, Amy! I agree, it would have been a BIG tragedy to lose all these treasures! I'm so glad you were there! I feel the same about these kinds of special trinkets. Very powerful to hold something in your hand that some past family member held in their hand.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Amy,
What cool stuff to save! Family Toanga -treasure. I agree with the comment above and in traditional Maori, indiginous New Zealand people, belief that these treasures can contain great energy of our ancestors. Well done.

Amy said...

Marcia, I was happy to find them. My mom doesn't have much of her family's belongings. My grandparents got rid of most of it without even asking the kids if they wanted anything. They weren't very attached to things, and my mom would probably add people. It's a shame.

Robb, thanks. It was fun to sift through all that. My mom was surprised how much we were enjoying ourselves. Holding things from my family's past brings me a sense of peace.

Mrs. STL Sarah said...

Very cool post, and Kelsey does look like you and my mom!