For a number of reasons I don’t have much in the way of family heirlooms. My parents’ families never had very many material possessions to pass on. My mother’s family left Sweden with nothing when they booked their passage to the U.S. and then had hard lives in New England. In my mother’s lifetime that included the tragic loss of what little treasured possessions her family had. My father was born in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee in a house with no plumbing, walking barefoot in the snow to school, etc. etc. His grandfather actually had some business sense, owned a mill and ran the local post office. However, he died suddenly without having passed on that know-how to his sons. They lost everything. My grandfather went to college getting a BA and then on to theological seminary never having a lot of money, during his studies or his subsequent years as a Baptist minister.
I have mentioned before that I had an odd keepsake for my grandfather – a pair of socks. He died when I was only three and somehow the socks became one of my treasured things. They were eventually discarded and I now have his old, well-worn hymnal instead. During my visit with my parents I picked up a few new keepsakes including another odd one. My mother gave me a book about Aristotle that had been her father’s and then hers when she was in school. He died when she was twelve so I never met him and this is the first thing I have had that was his. My mother also had a box of old financial records that included her first bank account in 1954! I got to thumb through just about every check she has ever written. The one thing I kept was the set of letters from her dispute with Massachusetts in 1964 about whether she owed state income taxes for the years 1958-1961. She was living in Holland and working for the Foreign Service. My mom lost the dispute, but I love that in her last letter she added a defiant P.S.:
“Believe me, I still consider myself to be a resident of the place where I reside, namely, The Hague for the past six years and the indefinite future! But the Department of State is as adamant as your department.” (she underlined the “I” after Believe me)
As for mother’s treasured possessions, she recently discovered that some of her things have been stolen from their house. The hardest to bear is the loss of her engagement ring and a silver spoon that belonged to her father’s mother. The only thing to have survived from his family.