01 July 2013

Lesson Learned: Tell the Story

 I've been spending days and days going through the contents of my parents' house. It is a very sad and difficult task under the best of circumstances. But it could have been much, much easier for me if we had only marked our family heirlooms.

One day last week, I sat on the floor of my old bedroom and sobbed because I have no idea who made the very old and beautiful quilt I held in my hands. And it's not just that particular quilt...I have a whole stack of unidentified linens, shelves of beautiful glassware, vases, teacups, silver bowls, and more. Most of these items came from my mom's side of the family and sadly, almost none is marked with its story. My parents collected antiques and, without this information, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to separate the family heirlooms from the pieces they just purchased on a whim while on a weekend trip.

 There are a few exceptions. On the back of this picture, I found a handwritten note from my mom indicating that it had been stitched by my grandma, as well as several other important details. This simple note was such a gift to me. Now I know why this piece needs to be given a place of honor in my home.

If I weren't an only child, I could ask a brother or sister for help. But as it is, I have only one aunt who knows just a fraction of the information I crave. Of course, I'll do my best to track down details about these beautiful pieces, but it makes me incredibly sad to know that the stories behind many of them have been lost.

So if you have family heirloom pieces in your possession (or anything at all that you want your children to keep), PLEASE take the time NOW to write notes detailing what you know about them. There is no way to take away the heartache of losing one's parents, but you can lighten the load considerably with this one simple act.


Heather said...

I'm sorry! I have several items that I know are heirlooms but am not positive of exactly who they came from. It's frustrating!

Lori said...

I know exactly what you are going through, except for the only child part. I am the oldest andwas much more ingrained into the extended family than the others. I know the story of many of the heirlooms. Sadly I live 1100 miles away and the others have no idea what is actualy an heirloom and what is junk. The ratty old quilt and the dated picture are not worth money, but they were made by a great-aunt and purchased during WWII when serving in the South Pacific. That being said there are many items that have made their way to Goodwill and other places that should have that place of honor. The whole experience has given me a new outlook on my "stuff."

Linda Dotterer said...

I'm sorry that you are going through this. I have a lot of linens that are gorgeous but I don't know who they belonged to. The things that we do have and that we know the story about we have been telling our children. We just started doing that know that they are older and can appreciate the stories. The stitched piece is gorgeous!

Janet said...

Thank you, Heather, Lori, and Linda for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I hope to leave things a little clearer for my daughter! :)